Locals prepare for final H.S. game

Saturday night’s Lezzer Lumber classic will mark the final time three Golden Eagles and two Blue Devils will hit the football field in their high school careers.
Tyrone’s Tyler Mertiff, Brian McManigal and Dan Grazier will strap on the pads one last time, as will Ryan Myers and Bret McCartney from Bellwood-Antis.
Throughout this week, The Daily Herald will talk to the five players and get their thoughts on playing in one last game.
All-star classics are nothing to recent Tyrone graduate Tyler Mertiff. The 6-2, 185 IUP recruit participated in the Big John Riley and Born2Run basketball classics following the 2002-03 basketball season in which he was voted to the Associated Press Class AAA Second Team All-State team.
“I compare the Lezzer Lumber game to the Born2Run Classic I played in at Pittsburgh,” said Mertiff. “There is a lot of competition on the practice field this week and football all-star games gives you more of a variety of players because of having 11 starters.”
Mertiff finished his high school career at Gray Veterans Memorial Field with a victory over Ligonier Valley in the District VI Playoffs.
“It was great to finish our high school career at Gray Field with a win,” said Mertiff. “It seems like I have been playing there my whole life. I know that Dan, Brian and I would like to go out with a win.”
Tyrone receiveer Aaron Jeffries, an Associated Press Small Schools Second Team All-Stater was selected to play in the Lezzer Lumber classic, but is unable to play because of an injury suffered during track season.
“It’s going to be a little weird stepping on Gray Field without knowing that Aaron is there,” said Mertiff. “We are kind of fortunate to have Brandon Faretta of Altoona to throw the ball to. We plan to spread the ball around, but it is tough. When I got in trouble during high school, I found Aaron and hit him because I knew he would catch everything thrown his way. It is like not having a security blanket on the field.”
Mertiff, who will be continuing his education and football career at Indiana University of Pennsylvania also is re-united with his high school coach John Franco one last time. Franco is assisting head coach Tom Irwin and is joined on the staff by Indian Valley coach Gawen Stoker.
“Coach Franco is a little more relaxed this week than he is during the high school season,” said Mertiff. “He will joke the first time you make a mistake, but the second mistake, he is the same old coach Franco. He is there to teach even if it is an all-star game.”
The 2003 Lezzer Lumber Football Classic is scheduled for Saturday night at Gray-Veterans Memorial Field. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the Tyrone Athletic Office or the Morris Levine Family Shoe Store.