Once a Blue-Gold player, always a Blue-Gold player, is a fact members of the Gold team couldn’t overlook as they engaged in an intrasquad scrimmage at Milford High on Wednesday night.
Before they stepped onto the hot turf at Briggs Stadium, Gold players were addressed by 74-year-old Bart Luff, who was captain of the first Gold team in 1956.
Wearing his thick cotton three-quarters-sleeve No. 63 jersey with gold stars on blue shoulders, Luff said the inaugural Blue-Gold game opened his eyes in a way that is still beneficial today.
As he tugged on that jersey, he said, “This means everything to me.” His hope is that those involved in Saturday’s 57th annual game benefiting the Delaware Foundation Reaching Children with Cognitive Disabilities are similarly touched.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Delaware Stadium.
“This is the greatest game there is,” he said. “These kids [aided by DFRC] need all the help they can, and I have been one lucky person. Seeing the kids, what little bit we can do for them to make their lives more pleasant, left a lasting impression on me.”
Luff, a Smyrna graduate, was 5-foot-8 and 168 pounds, played left guard and middle linebacker and “I loved it,” he said. He observed that Wednesday’s Gold players were “two sizes bigger” as they scampered past in their lightweight mesh jerseys.
What he didn’t like was being on the losing side in that first Blue-Gold game, which is why he urged the Gold players to prepare as diligently and play as hard as they can in pursuit of victory. And if they do, win or lose, they can be satisfied.
“These kids needed to hear from him,” said Tony Glenn, DFRC’s executive director.
They enjoyed what they heard.
“That really inspired me,” said St. Georges two-way lineman Nick Dooley, who’ll play baseball at Salem (N.J.) Community College next year. “This game can benefit me for a lifetime. It’s my whole dream to come here, and when Saturday night comes and then you’re not playing football anymore, you’re going to miss it.”
Laurel running back Chris Jones, bound for Hudson Valley (N.Y.) Community College to play football, was also moved to hear Luff speak.
“It just shows the tradition Blue-Gold has,” he said. “The jersey really did it to me. It was long sleeve, like a T-shirt. He talked about how many guys from Blue-Gold he’s still friends with, and I think we’ll be like that, too.”
The fact that the Blue-Gold game never really gets out of one’s system was also evident in the Gold coaching staff.
Gold head coach Mike Hyde, who coaches St. Andrew’s, and each of his four assistants also played in the game: St. Andrew’s assistants Chuck Hudson (for Sussex Central) and Ed Manzi (for Dover), Caesar Rodney assistant Dan Candeloro (for Dickinson) and Newark assistant Steve Grundy (for Newark). Hyde played for Tower Hill in 1987 as the Blue quarterback.
“I was at the press conference Sunday, and all the memories start rushing back,” said Hyde, whose father, Steve, also played and coached in the game for Tower Hill. “We practiced for two weeks, and now it’s for a week. Then it was played in the afternoon, and now it’s at night. There are things they do to tweak it, but it’s still a great experience.”