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Game on as ACGC, BOLD sports rivalry takes on new colors

Items collected at the BOLD and ACGC schools and during the Sept. 18 football matchup will be shipped to local troops serving overseas, among them Andy Tepfer of Danube and William Flickinger of Spicer, shown here on duty in Iraq. Submitted photo

OLIVIA -- In 16 of the last 17 seasons of football competition, either BOLD or Atwater Cosmos Grove City has claimed the West Central South or Highway 212 conference championship.

This year's match-up promises something totally different: Two winners.

Not to mention a top-notch fireworks display, a tackle football contest between seventh- and eighth-graders from the two schools against big-time sports teams mascots like the Utah Jazz's "Bear'' and the Timberwolves's "Crunch''; and a visit and flyover by a Black Hawk helicopter.

Most important, it will be a time to remember, honor and support U.S. troops serving overseas and to remember those who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.

It will all take place Sept. 18 on the BOLD football field before the match-up of the two rivals.

It all started earlier this summer with a phone call from Bill Neubauer, BOLD district parent and director of the nonprofit Tim Orth Foundation, to Sherri Broderius, superintendent of the ACGC schools.

He tossed up a challenge: Which of the two school districts could rally their students, alumni and residents to collect the most items to be sent as care packages to local troops serving overseas?

"Game on,'' was the response he received from Broderius.

Both see this as an opportunity to turn a spirited sports rivalry into a "win-win'' scenario for the schools and the troops. The school collecting the most goods will be declared "winner'' of this contest, but there's no doubt that the troops (and their families) will be the real benefactors.

"It's a real morale booster,'' said Bert Wasierski, Renville County veterans service officer, of the packages sent to U.S. troops.

Veterans in Renville County have been shipping packages to troops serving overseas every month since 2004, when National Guard troops from the Olivia armory with the 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery began their first deployment to Iraq.

The local Guard units are now serving their second deployment. The Renville County veterans are shipping 48 packages to troops with local ties in the 151st, along with packages to 33 others deployed in combat zones.

Veterans groups donate the funds to purchase a collection of goods ranging from foot powder, eye drops and hand sanitizers to treats like powdered drinks, snack bars, trail mix and beef jerky.

Postage is the biggest cost, according to Wasierski and helper Harry Hawkinson. They said volunteers will be selling hot roast beef and hot dog dinners at the Sept. 18 event to raise funds for the postage needed. They also welcome contributions.

The activities get under way around 4 p.m. when a Black Hawk helicopter piloted by Olivia native Andrew Lang will land near the BOLD High School football field. Students will have opportunities to tour the chopper and meet its crew. Seventh- and eighth-graders from the two schools will take to the field in a football match with the mascots.

Derek Parra, U.S. Olympic gold and silver medal speed skater, is expected to play quarterback for the mascots.

The events that follow, including a fireworks display by award-winning Hollywood Pyrotechnics of Eagan, will be every bit as fun and exciting, according to Neubauer and Broderius.

But the sponsors said the event will also be a very emotional one. Members of the BOLD Class of 2007 will lead veterans as they carry a 20-foot by 38-foot U.S. flag onto the football field for a moment of silence. They will remember former classmate James Wertish and the two other soldiers who died at his side. Specialists Wertish, 20, and Daniel Drevnick, 22, of Woodbury and Carlos Wilcox IV, 27, of Cottage Grove, died July 15 while serving in Basra, Iraq, with the 34th Military Police Company, 34th Infantry Division.

The ceremony will also honor the memory of other area servicemen who have given their lives in the war, among them: Kyle Miller, 19, of Willmar and Bird Island; Matthew Ryan Kahler, 29, of Granite Falls; Brent Koch, 22, of Morgan; David Day, 25, of St. Louis Park; Jesse Lhotka, 24, of Appleton; and Jason Timmerman, 24, of Tracy.

Considering what these men and their loves ones have given -- and the ongoing sacrifices made by the troops and their families now fighting -- the sponsors said they are hoping for a very big response to their challenge to remember, honor and support our troops.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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