By Brandon Koch
The Tonawanda News
CITY OF TONAWANDA —
While some can argue that the T-NT Classic has lost its flare in recent years, both the Tonawanda and North Tonawanda football players and coaches were reminded of why the game is played — tradition.
Friday night will mark the 101st meeting between the two storied programs and the beginning of a new century in the T-NT rivalry.
That was the main theme at the annual Tonawanda-North Tonawanda Football Luncheon Tuesday at Richard’s on Main.
The event, which was sponsored by the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs of the Tonawandas, gathered players and coaches of the of the Lumberjacks and Warriors, as well as team cheerleaders, alumni and guest speaker Chris DeMarco, a former Tonawanda and North Tonawanda football coach and current athletic director at Sweet Home High School.
DeMarco delivered the inspiration message of persevering through adversity and the importance of tradition.
“T-NT is more about community than any other event than I have ever been a part of, and it dates back to the late 1800s,” DeMarco said at the luncheon. “These are two communities with such great history and such great community and not other community has it.”
The tradition of T-NT tells a story, he said, and on Friday, players from both teams with be a part of history.
“One hundred years from now there are going to be players looking back, and they’re going to become who they are because who you are today,” he said. “Friday night is the 101st meeting of the T-NT football game. You guys here will become the first class of the new century in one of the most celebrated high school football traditions in the country.”
Although DeMarco’s message of tradition was fitting, it was his touching story about Sweet Home football player Deshanaro “Day-Day” Morris that stole the spotlight of the event.
Morris, a former standout of the state champion Panthers, was paralyzed from the waste down after being involved in a single car accident with three of his friends.
Although Morris’ aspirations of becoming a top-tier college prospect were shattered, he overcame the tragic adversity, and walked across the stage — with the help of a walker — last May to receive his high school diploma.
“We will all face or have faced adversity in our life,” DeMarco said. “It’s how we address or attack that adversity that defines us.”
Before DeMarco’s speech, both head coach Eric Jantzi and Rob Gross introduced each team. Master of Ceremony Jay Holler hosted the luncheon.
A special presentation from NT great Dick Grapes was canceled due to Grapes’ absence. Grapes was undergoing testing for an upcoming procedure.
Nonetheless, the Jacks and Warriors left the luncheon with a sense of pride for T-NT football.
“Be proud of this tradition,” Gross said. “There are rivalries across Western New York, across New York state, they’re not like this where the entire community is involved. Be proud to be a part of this tradition and taking your place in line and make sure you understand you’re part of the unique experience that you’re very lucky to have this week.”
Contact sports editor Brandon Koch at 693-1000, ext. 117.