Tonawanda News — The Kiwanis and Rotary clubs of the Tonawandas hosted the annual T-NT Football Luncheon Wednesday afternoon at Stephen Sikora Post #1322 on Payne Avenue in North Tonawanda.
Both the Warriors and Lumberjacks and their respective coaching staffs came together in observance of the T-NT tradition in its 104th year.
Former Buffalo Bills safety Mark Kelso was the special guest speaker at the event. He talked about the importance of community, football and being a good person to the over 80 football players, both school’s cheerleading teams and other members of the community with a special connection to the rivalry.
“I’ve done this a couple times,” Kelso said. “Anything to celebrate the tradition of football.
It’s important to celebrate all that’s good about youth sports and this is one of them right there — when teams are playing because they have a healthy rivalry. There are people in the stands that played in this game 25 or 30 years ago, and it’s a great way to honor the sports and all the things that competitive athletics can bring to a young person. There’s all different kinds of ways they can develop as men and women and one of those things is team sports.”
Second-year NT coach Tony Truilizio talked briefly about last year’s T-NT game, his first experience with the rivalry. He said he wan’t prepared for how much of an event the T-NT game turned out to be.
“Last year I didn’t expect to see what I did from both communities. My staff and I participated in several championship games where I came from and I can honestly tell you that looking around the field at last year’s game,” Truilizio said in his speech. “It was amazing to see blue and red on one side and burgundy and white on the other side, as it surrounded the entire football field. That just shows you what an amazing game this has been and what we anticipate Friday to be.”
Tonawanda coach Rob Gross spoke about the tradition in the game and in the communities on both sides of the canal.
“We are two very proud communities with proud traditions. I say this every year, but if you go back through history our two programs have over 1,000 wins. Just think about how long that would take,” Gross said in his speech. “That’s the tradition you have become a part of and this luncheon is kind of the marker every year of you taking your place in that tradition.
“This is a celebration of both programs,” he continued. “It’s not like this everywhere. Make sure you understand how special this tradition is.”
Jay Holler served as Master of Ceremony, NT lineman Ryan Osborn performed the invocation and cheerleaders from both schools performed the pledge of allegiance.