WHEELING - The excitement is starting to build for the men who will make their triumphant return to Wheeling Island Stadium on Sunday night.
''I'm looking forward to it,'' said Lou Vidoni, who represented the Warwood Vikings on the West Virginia squad in the 1961 OVAC All-Star Football Game. ''I'm really happy about it.''
Vidoni, along with a handful of his brethren from the 1961 and 1962 games, met for lunch at WesBanco Arena on Tuesday to finalize plans for Sunday's reunion at the 68th annual Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Football Charity Classic.
Photo by Rick Thorp
Moundsville resident Jerry Drake, right, a member of the 1961 West Virginia All-Stars representing Moundsville High, speaks with game director Bob Koch during Tuesday morning’s gathering at WesBanco Arena.
''It's great seeing everyone,'' Vidoni, who played quarterback in the '61 contest, said.
The former players mingled and shared stories before lunch. After eating, they heard from OVAC Executive Secretary Tom Rataiczak, All-Star Game Director Bob Koch, and John Howell, the man in charge of the reunion.
''This is what the game is all about,'' Rataiczak told the group, adding sometimes the younger generations doesn't realize its importance.
Vidoni sure relishes his memories of it.
''It's great seeing everyone,'' he said, pointing to former Weir standout, and OVAC Hall of Famer, Bob Kelley who was sitting next to him. ''Bob was one of the best players I ever saw or played with.''
To this day, Vidoni said memories of that July night 52 years ago still crop up in conversations.
''Harry O'Connell (his Wellsburg High School teammate in the game), I see him every two weeks or so and we always talk about what happened in the game. It brings back a lot of memories. It was very enjoyable.
''On a scale of 10 the all-star game was about a 9. There was like a bond that brought a lot of people together.''
The players will be brought onto the field Sunday during the first television timeout which kicks off at 7:15 p.m.
In addition to the reunion, there will be a plethora of other activities during the game, including a halftime performance by the McDonald's All-Star Band and the crowning of the Queen of Queens winner. Those facets help make the OVAC event the crown jewel of all-star games, according to Koch.
''We have expanded on what Rudy and Sam (Mumley) started,'' Koch told the gathering. ''This is one all-star game that has a lot of support from a lot of people.''