|When Tyrone and Bellwood-Antis got together for their annual Backyard Brawl Friday evening, the loyalty of the two communities are undisputed. In Tyrone and Bellwood, just about everybody locks up the stores and houses and “grabs the babies and old ladies” as the Neil Diamond song suggests, and literally just about everyone else and heads to either Gray-Vets Memorial Field, as is the case this year, or Bellwood Memorial Stadium.
Over the years, with jobs and housing, often as young couples set up housekeeping as another old phrase goes, some of the Tyrone grads and the B-A grads marry a significant other from the other school and move into a house in Bellwood, or Tyrone, or the sounding villages and townships.
There has always been an incredible fan base for both our local football teams. By far, the biggest game fan-wise is the opener between the two adjoining schools. And when the two schools play on different nights, you can always see a large number of Tyrone fans at Bellwood games and an equally large number of Bellwood fans at Tyrone games. Except on that opening night when they face off against each other for bragging rights and prestige for the rest of the year, Bellwood-Antis fans root for Tyrone and Tyrone fans root for Bellwood-Antis.
An amazing number of Tyrone grads have kids attending school and participating in sports in the Bellwood-Antis School District, and many Bellwood grads have kids going to school and playing sports in the Tyrone School District. It is a sure thing that you can name someone you know, who went to school in one district and now lives in the other. In 2007, Cory Barnhart was on the Tyrone roster, while brother Steve Barnhart was on the Blue Devils. Cory graduated, while Steve is a junior at Bellwood-Antis.
This year for example, the Backyard Brawl has three cousins playing football with and against each other. Eric Desch (5-10, 140), a junior wide receiver/defensive back for the Eagles, is the son of Daren and Jackie Desch. Shane Walker (5-10, 200), a junior quarterback/defensive back for the Eagles, is the son of Steve and Kelly Walker, and Tim Collier (5-9, 150), a senior slotback/outside linebacker is the son of Tim and Kari Collier.
Now the family ties kick in. Tim’s mother, Kari, and Shane’s mom Kellie, are twin sisters, whose maiden name is Desch, and they are a year younger than older brother Daren, so all three current players are cousins.
But wait, there is another tie. Even though the Desch’s and the Walkers now live in the Tyrone School District, all three fathers played on the same Bellwood-Antis football team, for present Blue Devil football coach John Hayes, before graduating in 1982. Steve Walker was a two-time 1,000-yard tailback at B-A and twice led Blair County in scoring. Tim Collier was a guard who helped block for his future brother-in-law. Daren Desch was a halfback/cornerback on those same teams.
Coach Hayes, in fact was an assistant coach and teacher at Tyrone, before taking the head coaching position at Bellwood-Antis in 1980, creating another crossover between the two schools and their football programs.
There have been and will be other family ties involved across the line of scrimmage for this most highly prized rivalry. Football is a sport that transcends just about every other part of northern Blair County life. The one factor that joins all these diverse people together is our love of high school football.
Bellwood-Antis senior Tim Collier (center) is flanked by his cousins, Eric Desch (left) and Shane Walker (right), who both play football for Tyrone. (The Daily Herald/Courtesy Photo)