Could it really be 10 years since the Tyrone football team won the PIAA championship? In some ways, it feels like a lifetime ago; in others, it seems like just yesterday.
Watching Friday night as dozens of members of the 1999 Golden Eagles returned to Gray Veterans Memorial Field was like taking a trip back in time. The players may be carrying around a few more pounds and a
little extra facial hair, but the boyish grins were evident, even from the top row of the bleachers, as teammates and coaches exchanged hugs, high-fives and hip-bumps.
Mirror file photo
Golden Eagle player Dave Magahan celebrates with fans while holding the 1999 PIAA?championship trophy.
It truly was a memorable, magical campaign. The undefeated regular season, followed by a Cinderella run through the playoffs, capped by the dramatic last-minute win over Mount Carmel at Hersheypark Stadium.
Each week, it became more and more evident that we were witnessing something special, as this team etched out history and created traditions. Players painted their faces with black diamonds, gathered with teammates for pregame spaghetti dinners and kneeled for postgame prayer. They entertained their school at rowdy pep rallies and led a convoy of orange-and-black-clad fans all over the state. They were a small school with a big-time following: Last one out of town, turn out the lights.
While fans remember those unique moments under the Friday night sky, players probably recount the early morning summer workouts, grueling conditioning drills and frigid November playoff practices.
When they returned to Tyrone after that chilly championship day in Hershey, state gold medals in tow, they were greeted by the blares and flashing lights of fire trucks, and crowds of fans lining the streets, sometimes two or three deep, to welcome them home.
This past Friday night, the whistles blew and lights flashed again, another happy homecoming.
Time does not dim the pride that accompanied that season. Time may actually intensify those feelings. No matter what these players have done since or will do in the future, they will always be part of that legendary squad, a piece of Tyrone, Blair County and Pennsylvania football history.
Today's varsity players were in elementary school during that extraordinary season, and probably lined the fences, dreaming of growing up to be Golden Eagles, just like those state champions. Now when they slip on their black jerseys and run onto that football field, they carry on the proud Tyrone tradition.
John Franco's squad has enjoyed more than a decade of excellence, including multiple district titles and the PIAA silver in 1996. However, no District 6 team, before or since, has matched the modern-day accomplishments of those '99 Eagles.
Perhaps those achievements are appreciated even more today, as that special squad celebrates its 10th anniversary, both by the players who experienced those moments, and by the fans who witnessed them.
To the 1999 Golden Eagles from a grateful town, and a lucky reporter: Thanks for the memories!
Kellie Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.