Blue-Gold game a tradition for Tkach family

Gold coach Mike Tkach watches his players closely during Wednesday’s practice in Milford for Friday’s Blue-Gold all-star game. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

NEWARK — When Mike Tkach took an assistant coaching job at Cape Henlopen High several years ago, Patrick Tkach had a choice to make.

He could either stay at Caesar Rodney High for his last two years of high school, or he could follow his father down to Cape. He chose the latter.

After spending his freshman and sophomore seasons at CR, Pat transferred and finished the other half of his high school football career in Lewes as a Viking.

It was an easy choice, really.

“We talked as a family, and if he wanted to stay at CR he could, but he’s like, ‘dad, we’re a team. Wherever you go, I go,’” Mike said.
“So, as a father, that’s an awesome thing to deal with, to have your son want to go with you and play with you and for you. It made that transition a lot easier for me.”

When Pat, now a recent Cape graduate, was selected a few months ago to play in the 64th annual DFRC Blue-Gold All-Star football game at the University of Delaware Friday night, it wasn’t long before the elder Tkach received a call as well.

Gold’s Pat Tkach from Cape Henlopen waits to be called on the field during practice.

The pre-game festivities will begin at promptly 6 p.m., with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. at Delaware Stadium.

For Mike, this is his eighth time coaching in the Blue-Gold game. It’s his second time coaching one of his sons in the all-star game.

“I’m really excited for it. My brother (Michael), he went through this and I was the manager when he was here, and my dad was coach. So I got to witness it with them — that was my eighth grade year — and I knew one day I wanted to work my butt off so I could be in the position my brother put himself in,” said Pat.

“It’s funny how things come full circle. I grew up being a little water boy and running around on the field, and then my older brother started taking football serious, so that taught me to take football serious.”

Tkach has been head coach of the Gold on two occasions, most recently back in 2015 when Michael played in the game.

It was just months after stepping down from his head coaching position at Milford High. He was the Bucs’ coach for 13 years before taking a position at Caesar Rodney and then eventually moving on to his current position at Cape.

This year he’s serving as an assistant for CR coach Dan Candeloro, who he also served under as an assistant during his brief two-year tenure with the Riders.

CR assistant coach Brian Berns, Milford coach Shaun Strickland, First State Military Academy coach Blair Newman and Woodbridge High coach Jed Bell round out Candeloro’s Gold coaching staff.

“It’s the great thing about the football community,” said Mike. “Coach Candeloro helped me out several years ago when I stepped away from Milford, and he was there for me.

“Then I had the opportunity to go to Cape and Pat followed me down there. When he was selected, coach Candeloro contacted me and asked if I wanted to be on the staff.”

Candeloro, Berns and his father aren’t the only familiar faces on the staff for Pat.

Having spent his middle school days in Milford while his father served as the high school coach for more than a decade, Pat also has a relationship with current Bucs coach Strickland and Bell — a former player of Mike’s at Milford.

“He wanted to change his name to Jed,” a smiling Mike said. “Pat idolized Jed when Jed was a senior and he was a little guy running around on the sidelines. And now he’s being coached by him in the all-star game.”

Each player participating in the all-star game each year is paired with a Delaware Foundation Reaching Citizens with intellectual disABILITIES (DFRC) hand-in-hand buddy. The hand-in-hand program is in its 45th year of existence.

The players often attend DFRC-sponsored events with their assigned buddies leading up to the day of the game.

Pat shares his buddy — Cape student Luke Jefferson — with fellow Cape Henlopen Gold player Austin Mendes.

Not only has Pat spent time with Luke during DFRC-sponsored events, but the trio tries to hang out together every other weekend.

“We went bowling, we fish a lot and the other day we hung out and watched a movie and played some cornhole and stuff,” said Pat. “He’s a really cool kid, I’m glad I’ve had the chance to meet him.”

“Both of them have bought in to what the real cause of the DFRC hand-in-hand program is,” said Mike. “It’s not just meeting at assigned times, it’s developing a relationship that hopefully they’ll continue on for the rest of their lives.”

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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