By RICK NOLAND
Assistant Sports Editor
MEDINA â€” The 19th annual Meadows Turkey Bowl raised the roof â€” and almost $26,000 for the local chapter of St. Vincent DePaul Charities.
Held in the backyard of Medina resident Mike Meadows, the annual Thanksgiving morning football game raised $25,926 â€” the previous record, set last year, was $16,000 â€” through the yeoman efforts of 46 participating players.
â€œThis year, the MVP is a band of 46 brothers who went out and collected money,â€ Meadows said. â€œItâ€™s amazing.â€
Many of the invited participants â€” they like to joke that 40-plus now describes most of their ages and waistlines â€” have been playing in the game for years, which is what makes the event so special.
â€œWe donâ€™t get together on the Fourth of July; we donâ€™t get together on Labor Day; we donâ€™t get together on Christmas or birthdays,â€ Meadows said. â€œWe have one thing in common â€” the Turkey Bowl.
â€œWe used to just play football. Now, the game within the game is who can raise the most money.â€
This year, the game attracted media attention from major Northeast Ohio newspapers and radio and television stations, with the Associated Press running a story that was picked up in Columbus and Toledo.
Buoyed by that publicity, Meadows is aiming to raise $35,000 for St. Vincent DePaul Charities in 2009, but he wants to do so without taking on a large corporate sponsor.
â€œWe want to keep it a group of guys collecting large sums of money for a cause bigger than ourselves,â€ Meadows said. â€œWe want to keep it a non-corporate, backyard football game.â€
The players, some of whom are lifetime friends, are now extending their efforts way beyond the playing field. Not only do many contribute substantially, some are also contacting friends and area businesses for donations.
Teams are picked by four captains through a player auction held at Weymouth Country Club the night before the game. This year, Ron Sency went for a record $4,200. Meadows went for $4,100, with John Cassidy going for $3,600 and Tom Judson bringing in $1,000.
As for the Meadows Turkey Bowl itself, Erin Curetonâ€™s squad defended its championship by beating a team captained by Terry and Tim Blascak in the title game.
Members of Curetonâ€™s squad were MVP Mark Denison, Mr. Hustle winner Judson, Brian Coughlin, Bob Cureton, Don Herrmann, Matt Lanier, Brian Moran, Jimmy Pelz, Lance Price and Mike Priebe.
The Blascak brothersâ€™ team consisted of Mr. Toughest recipient Lee Daubenspeck, Bill Biegel, Pat Gould, Al Melchiorre, John Scoarste, Sency, Jared Swank, Nate Tottan, Brad Williamson and Ken Wisniewski.
Third place in the four-team event went to Dave Stumpfâ€™s team, which consisted of Paul Bilinovich, Scott Furlong, Tim Gerity, Ray Gigliotti, Matt Keiner, Dave Krause, Chad Larson, Bill Meadows, Mike Meadows, Jason Nemeth and Steve Robertson.
The fourth-place team was Bill Doratyâ€™s squad, which consisted of Jeff Barnes, John Brooks, Cassidy, Mike Curnayn, Danny Harris, Dave Hire, Mike Hosey, P.J. King, Ken Walter and Joe Nemeth.
Steve Garcia, Norb Meadows and Alan Schafer were on hand to take pictures, while Dave Ciryak, Frank Ciryak, Frank Cureton Sr., Mike Eleo and Jim Stachowiak served as referees.
A childrenâ€™s game was held the day after Thanksgiving, with Alex Furlong earning MVP, Bret Bartone capturing the Mr. Toughest award and Clayton Stumpf earning Mr. Hustle honors.
The event even includes a Meadows Turkey Bowl Hall of Fame. This year, Sency was presented for enshrinement by Walter, with Jason Nemeth presenting Doraty and Mike Meadows inducted through a video created by Garcia.
Finally, numerous families and area businesses donated money to St. Vincent DePaul Charities, which Mike Meadows emphasized was the real winner.
â€œOne-hundred percent of the money goes to St. Vincent,â€ he said. â€œI canâ€™t tell you how proud I am of all the people who took part.â€
Noland may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-721-4061.