By Jeff Gallatin
Strong teamwork abounded both on and off the field in the sixth annual Battle of the Gridiron Saturday, which raises funds for Special Olympic athletes.
On the field at the North Ridgeville schools football field, the North Ridgeville police beat the North Olmsted/Olmsted Township police departments 28-12 with a late rally. More importantly to all involved, the teams and their respective communities raised more than $5,525 for the Lorain Special Olympics program.
Detective Ken Vagase, the North Olmsted team captain, who has been one of the driving forces in the event for several years, said he’s pleased with how the event turned out.
“That’s what’s really important is how it’s helping them,” he said after the contest, pointing towards the group of Special Olympic athletes who attended the game. “They really get into it and it gives them a lot of help.”
Both Vagase and Lt. Greg Petek, the North Ridgeville team captain, said they still have donations coming in this week.
“It’s been really great, we’ve gotten a lot of support in the community in this in addition to the different police departments,” Petek said afterwards. “It’s great that people all come together for something like this. We’re certainly enjoying being a part of this and are looking forward to it again next year.”
This year the North Olmsted officers enlisted the help of their Olmsted Township neighbors to help both on and off the field.
Township officer Bryan Tyler said his contingent enjoyed being a part of the event.
“It was a blast, both being on the field and helping with the events off the field,” he said. “Those kids really are something and we’re glad to help. We’ll definitely be up for this again next year.”
Several of the officers noted how much they appreciated medals officers on each team had placed around their necks by the Special Olympians during a special halftime ceremony.
The two teams also cooperated in again having a Special
Olympian run for a touchdown again. Last year, North Olmsted had a teen athlete run for a score. This year, the North Ridgeville squad had Grant Holbrook, 16, of Lorain, score the six-pointer. A team player, he passed the ball off twice trying to work with his teammates.
“He’s that way in basketball too,’ said Krystal Tavenner, one of the coaches, for the Special Olympics. “He’s always good with other people.”
On the field, North Olmsted held the lead for much of the game, before North Ridgeville rallied for three late touchdowns. The Lorain County passing combination of Petek to Adam Freas hit on several passes along the defensive seams, including two long touchdown strikes.
Petek said Monday that North Ridgeville officer Calvin Cross, who suffered a knee injury early in the game, was being checked by a doctor to see the extent of the injury. He said people could send their good wishes to Cross via the department.
Referring to the actual game, the officers said it was fun.
“We couldn’t hang on,” Vagase said, noting that the North Olmsted led for much of the game. “They’ve got some really good athletes over there.”
He said the addition of several Olmsted Township officers this year helped.
“They gave us some fresh legs,” he said.
Tyler, a former outside linebacker at Waynesburg College in Pennsylvania, spent a lot of time nabbing Ridgeville runners.
“It was fun,” he said. “We like getting out there and competing.”
Petek said his team was pleased.
“It was a pretty competitive game,” he said. “But, we managed to pull away at the end.”