Canton, Ohio, is a must-visit destination for most football fans because it is home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
While the Hall of Fame is a main attraction in Canton, youth football players, coaches, parents and fans from Pennsylvania will make a mid-November trip west for another memorable experience – the first Pennsylvania-Ohio Youth Football Classic.
Mark Ross, co-founder of the Western Pennsylvania Youth Football League, wanted a way to promote USA Football while getting unique exposure for the newly formed WPYFL. While in Ohio for the NFL/USA Football Youth Summit, Ross met Clarence Kaiser of the Akron Parent Pee-Wee Football Association and presented Kaiser with the game idea.
After a few months of planning and preparation, Ross’ goal of providing a memorable season-ending game is about to become reality.
“I think it’s good for the kids to see what goes on in other parts of the country because you are so restricted to where you live,” Ross said. “I just really want them to see how football really impacts people’s lives around the country.
“Plus, it gives us a chance to promote USA Football and each of our organizations in a way that when you play for one of our teams in the WPYFL, we can offer some special things like this that many others can’t.”
The inaugural postseason Classic is this weekend, Nov. 17-18.
On Saturday, the clubs will tour of the Hall of Fame. Shortly after, a fellowship dinner will take place where all players, coaches and parents can share stories from their respective football seasons.
The Classic kicks off Sunday afternoon with a 9-10 game at noon, when players from the WPYFL take on the Alcorn State Braves, a team sponsored by former NBA guard and Canton native, Eric Snow.
A second contest, comprised of 11- and 12-year-olds, will follow the first game and wrap up the competition.
The games take place at Fawcett Stadium, a location that was important to Kaiser because of how close the visiting players and their families would be to the NFL’s museum of the league’s greatest players, coaches and contributors. It also is where the annual Hall of Fame Game is played each year to kick off the NFL preseason.
“We selected (Fawcett Stadium) as a central location for the parents and children of the Pennsylvania teams so it would allow them the chance to tour the Hall over their weekend stay,” Kaiser said. “Akron was in Canton for the helmet concussion forum, so we began talking and putting together the first of a two-year agreement to play this year in Canton.”
The plan is to alternate locations each year as the 2013 Classic will move to Pennsylvania.
League administrators are hopeful that future games can be scheduled in preseason, primary because of better weather but also because the event could serve as a springboard to the season.
The players from both organizations are excited about the opportunity, and parents also bought into the idea because they know it could be a special experience for everyone involved.
Kaiser is confident the event will make a difference in every participant’s life, and Ross hopes that the overall experience will provide a new perspective to his players about the sport they love.
“I want (the players) to soak it all in and see that the game of football is such a wonderful game,” Ross said. “It’s a special game that can create so many wonderful opportunities in life, whether it’s on or off the field.”