From the sports editor: After 65 years, Blue-Gold streak temporarily interrupted

Former Dover High standout John Castro holds his buddy before the 2017 Blue-Gold Game. Delaware State News file photos

Canceling the game was inevitable, really.

But that doesn’t mean officially calling off this year’s Blue-Gold All-Star Football Game was any less painful.

Even on a teleconference, DFRC executive director Tony Glenn said it was an emotional moment for the game’s board of trustees.

“There were a lot of tears, there were people just breaking down,” said Glenn. “But the bottom line was, we don’t have a choice.”

Countless things have been called off because of the coronavirus pandemic, of course. And a lot of them are far more important than a game.

Then again, Blue-Gold football has always been about more than just a game.

In a normal world, the players for this year’s contest would be in Newark, getting ready to play the 65th annual Blue-Gold game next Friday.

Sixty-fifth.

That means the last year the Blue-Gold game wasn’t played was 1955. Ike was president, Ray Croc had just started McDonald’s and the average cost of a new house was under $11,000.

The game survived the turbulent 1960s, 9/11 and even some serious thunderstorms lately, all without missing a beat.

Glenn remembers the 1991 contest would have been in serious jeopardy because of some extreme heat and humidity in the afternoon. But that also happened to be the first year that temporary lights were put up at Delaware Stadium to play the game at night.

“The trainers said that we never would have been able to play that game until about seven,” said Glenn. “How’s that for divine intervention?”

DFRC executive director Tony Glenn poses with all-star children Matthew Beck and Brennan Popp in 2018.

As much as Glenn hates to see the game itself not played, he said that the biggest disappointment is that the Blue-Gold Hand-in-Hand program couldn’t be run this year, either.

The program matches up game participants with special-needs children in the months leading up to the contest. The pandemic hit in mid-March, just when the participants and their buddies were being paired up.

For a lot of the high school kids, that’s the experience that creates the longest-lasting memories.

“To all of us, I think the most devastating thing was four and a half months went by without all these families being able to get together and sharing stories of abilities,” said Glenn. “That’s more devastating than not being there next Friday night.

“It’s fun to watch as we start the first party in March. By the time we go into camp, we watch as the kids get closer and closer. … I wish I had a dollar for every player, cheerleader and band member that grabs you after the game and says, ‘You know, I’m never going to look at this the same way.’ You wouldn’t have to worry about raising funds.”

This is a high school senior class that knows all about disappointment. They’ve already had their proms and graduations canceled.

Glenn said that Blue-Gold officials are doing what they can to make sure the game participants don’t feel forgotten.

Najee Whitted, the former Caesar Rodney High running back, scored a TD in the Blue-Gold game in 2017.

The players will still get their jerseys and game participants will be sent t-shirts. They will also all be invited back to next year’s game.

“They are the Blue-Gold Class of 2020,” said Glenn. “We want them to know how important they are. We remind them of our mission. They’re in there forever.

“We’re not going to let it go away,” he said about the game. “We’re going to remind people who we are and we’re going to start planning for next year’s game. We’re going to keep right on going.”

And there’s every reason to believe that the Blue-Gold game, and all the activities that go with it, will pick right back up next year.

This 2020 game will just have to be remembered as the one where keeping everybody safe won out.

“I stand in front of the parents before we meet with all the kids in January,” said Glenn. “I stand there and say, ‘If your kids are sent to us, we’re going to do every single thing we can to protect everybody — buddies, participants, everybody. I’m never going to do try to do something that would ever put somebody in harm’s way.

“But it doesn’t make it any easier, does it?” he said.

Odds & ends

• Former Caesar Rodney High football standout Duron Harmon announced Friday that his wife, Christine, gave birth to their fourth son on Friday. The newcomer’s name is Cobe Matthew Harmon.

• Harmon, who is in his first year with the Detroit Lions, also had this to say in an interview with Michael Stets this week:

“Football is a game. It’s a game that I’m appreciative for. I love it. But at the end of the day it’s a game. Racism, that’s real. We are talking about lives now. We are talking about life and death. Racism has called for people to be murdered in cold blood.”

• Friday marked the 50th anniversary of Delaware playing in the 1970 College World Series. Future Lake Forest High coach Bill Falasco was a member of that squad.

• A handful of Delaware high school football teams will start the season a week early — pandemic permitting — in order to schedule games this fall. Smyrna High, Sussex Tech, Sussex Central, Seaford, Indian River and Delmar are all slated to play on Sept. 4.

• Dover High’s football team is scheduled to play its first five games at home with seven home dates on its 10-game slate.