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Battle of Cowee Mountain rages as players sign up.

Former Franklin and Smoky Mountain High School students will take to the gridiron Dec. 8 for the first-ever fundraising alumni football game. Historically deemed “The Battle of Cowee Mountain,” the ageold rivalry will raise money for both schools.

Mike Murphy and John Owen have organized the game as team coordinators for the organization’s Alumni Football USA (AFUSA). Murphy said the goal of the game is to raise funds for both schools while giving former players the chance to reconnect on the football field.

To date, 67 former players have signed up for Franklin High School (FHS), some of which played back in the ’80s. “We have had a great response from both teams,” said Murphy. “The guys out there are really fired up and ready to get to work.”

Smoky Mountain High (SMH) has had 43 players sign up to represent the Mustangs once again. Former Mustang Billy Ayers plans to fly in from Texas to take part in the action. “I am looking forward to the chance of getting back out on the field and for the opportunity to play with guys that I looked up to growing up,” said Ayers. “There is a lot of history between the two schools. Franklin's current coach and Athletic Director, Josh and Jay Brooks graduated and played ball for the Mustangs. It would be great to have the chance to either play alongside them for the Mustangs or be coached by them, you can take them from our holler, but you can't take the holler from them.”

According to Murphy, each team gets to select who coaches them. Current and former coaches could be called in to coach the alumni game meaning that current Franklin Football Coach Tim Hawkins, who used to coach for Smoky Mountain, could suit up in blue and white and join his hometown to lead the Mustangs, or former famous Franklin High and Duke University coach Fred Goldsmith could once again join the Panthers on the sidelines.

The fun, full contact alumni football game has already taken place or been scheduled in Western North Carolina schools such as Asheville, Andrews and Swain. The only commitment needed by local schools is the use of the field. Alumni Football USA provides all the equipment, field liability insurance, officials, announcer, chain gang, Emergency Management Personnel, security and organization of game day. According to Murphy, the game is tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. on Dec. 8 and will be held at Franklin High School, pending approval by the Board of Education.

According to Murphy, AFUSA requires that both teams hold at least five practices in order to prepare for the game. “We require five practices to make sure everyone is on the same page and to make sure that no one just shows up the day of the game and risk getting hurt,” he said. “Teams can hold more practices and any after the five will just benefit the players and the team.”

Fifty percent of all pre-sale tickets sold by the schools will go directly back to FHS and SMH. The schools are also allowed to sell concessions and raffle tickets on game day to increase the lucrative benefit of the event. Since 2010, AFUSA has helped to raise more than $400,000 for schools across the country.

Murphy noted that the football players are not the only ones getting in on the action. “We were contacted by Jennifer Turner- Lynn with Franklin High School to inform us that she was organizing alumni cheerleaders for the event and plans to have more than 30 participants for the Panthers,” said Murphy.

According to Turner-Lynn, she is working with Ericka Phillips, a former FHS cheerleader, to facilitate and contact FHS cheer alumni to participate in this one-of-akind opportunity. “After 12 years of coaching cheerleading, I've had the privilege of coaching hundreds of athletes and we've held two alumni nights at FHS as well,” said Turner-Lynn. “Ericka and I anticipate that we will have a really nice turnout for this game and they are so excited that they will have the opportunity to make a run-through banner, take the field for pre-game and actually cheer the entire game. Former alumni cheerleaders can also contact me at (828)318-7241. We are thrilled to be a part of this experience.”

For the Mustangs, former SMH cheerleader Mary Beegle is working with other alumni cheerleaders to organize a squad as well. Beegle has created a facebook group and has also been reaching out to past cheerleaders in order to prepare for the event. “I think this is a great opportunity for past Mustangs to come together to support our high school,” said Beegle. “I am excited for the chance to watch so many generations come together one last time.”

About Alumni Football USA

In 1985, Bob Cazet decided to organize an alumni football game for his old high school football buddies. Soon he realized guys all over the nation had the same dream of a full contact, alumni football game. Cazet, M.Ed., former Marine, National Championship Head Coach and the founder and president of Alumni Football USA, has been coaching football and softball teams since the 1980s. With a Master's Degree in Education and as a former college instructor at Auburn University, head coach at Stanford, as well as a teacher in the California school system, he found that sports programs were generally the first to go in tight budget years. His love for kids, football, teaching, and coaching led him to create a business model that benefits schools and former high school football players. Since the School-Partner program began in January 2010, schools have been praising Alumni Football USA for the increased revenue without any cost to the school.

For more information about the event, AFUSA will hold the first team meeting for both Smoky Mountain and Franklin High on Sunday, Oct. 14, at 2 p.m. at the Fun Factory in Franklin. To sign up for the event or for additional information visit www.alumnifootballusa.com.


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