You?re 25 years old, or maybe you?re 30, or 40. You played high school football. For whatever reason, you never played at a higher level. But you miss high school football. You miss the weekly testosterone rush. Maybe you go to 49er or Raider games, dressed in decorative war paint, knowing that doesn?t quite fill the void. You have an itch you can?t scratch.
?Just before an alumni Texas game I told the players, ?Iran is coming and they are going to rip your face off,? said Gary Cavender of Ukiah. ?Yes, football is like going into battle. It?s like taking an army into the field. That intensity, the last time the players felt that was in high school. In real life there?s really no place to safely release that aggression except on a football field. I mean, you can?t walk down a street and say, ?I?m gonna rip your face off.?
But on March 12 and 13, on the Santa Rosa High football field, you can rip faces if you?re a high school alumnus of one of 18 Empire high schools. It?s full-contact football, the real deal, no pitty-pat. It?s high school rules, 12-minute quarters. For an entry fee of $75, Alumni Football USA will organize the event as well as provide helmets, pads, uniforms, EMTs and referees.
?You have to provide a jockstrap and spikes, we provide everything else,? said Cavender, an advanced mathematics teacher at Ukiah High School who works for the organization as a game coordinator for the top high school football rivalries in America.
You also have to be an alum, for example, to play for Analy on March 13 against El Molino. Find the full Empire list of games on www.AlumniFootballUSA.com. Those nine local games scheduled are part of the 215-game national package that will be played in 19 states throughout 2010.
And why should the high schools care? Because they make money. Most times the schools get to keep all the concession money. In addition, for example, if Healdsburg High were to sell 1,000 tickets to its alumni game against Windsor, the school would receive half of each pre-sale ticket price. A pre-sale ticket costs $6. That?s $3,000 back to the school. It?s $8 on game day, with that money going to AFUSA. The incentive is for the schools to work the pre-sales.
?And there?s no question schools could use the money these days,? Cavender said.
How this idea began was much like how most ideas begin ? by mixing a little serendipity with necessity. Back in 1985, Bob Cazet, then the girls? softball coach at St. Helena High School, needed to raise funds to put his girls on the field with gloves and uniforms.
?Someone asked me,? said Cazet, once a linebacker for St. Helena, Class of ?78, ?if there was one thing I could do again that I did in my youth, what would it be??
Cazet responded then like the 24-year-old man he was: Football. So Cazet organized an alumni game for ex-St. Helena players. The graduates in odd years played graduates in even years. The cost was $3 a ticket, the proceeds funding the girls? softball team.
Three years later, Cazet founded Alumni Football with the first game pitting Petaluma against Casa Grande. Twenty-one years later, Cazet has $200,000 worth of football gear, 400 complete sets, 280 of which are stored each week in a trailer Cazet or someone else drives to the next alumni game. Just recently Cazet purchased all the football gear used in the popular football movie ?The Blind Side.? Cazet paid $20,000 for the equipment. He guessed the retail value was $60,000.