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Tickets For Final GAR-Meyers Football Game Sell Out Fast

October 2, 2018
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Tickets For Final GAR-Meyers Football Game Sell Out Fast

WILKES-BARRE — GAR High School graduate John Suchoski joked he was disgusted Monday after purchasing tickets for his alma mater’s final football game against crosstown rival, Meyers. The Meyers Mohawk mascot is the lone symbol printed on the tickets since it’s considered a home game for Meyers. “Yuck. I thought they could have had GAR tickets as well,” said Suchoski, 36, a 2001 graduate who played wide receiver for the Grenadiers. It was a natural reaction for a partisan in this bitter 87-year-old rivalry that is coming to an end. The Wilkes-Barre schools are preparing to merge sports teams next year with the other city school, Coughlin. But at least Suchoski was able to get tickets. Tickets to the final big game, often called the “Backyard Brawl,” went on sale to the public Monday and loyalists scooped them up quickly. Tickets were $4 and limited to six per person. Each school sold its allotment of 1,000 adult tickets within hours, school officials said. Current students had first crack at tickets last week, purchasing nearly 1,000 tickets at $2 each. GAR has a limited number of student tickets remaining. GAR Athletic Director Simon Peter said if GAR doesn’t sell out of student tickets this week, he might be able to sell an additional 100 adult tickets. Interest is still very high, he said. “Quite honestly, after we locked the doors to the gym lobby and put up the ‘Sold Out’ sign, there was a number of people who came to the door,” Peter said. Meyers Athletic Director Mike Namey said officials predicted a quick sell out because there “always is a decent faction who will come to this game regardless.” The final game will be held Oct. 27 at Wilkes-Barre Memorial Stadium. Seating is limited to 3,000 because the home side bleachers were dismantled and removed due to problems with the building. Meyers standout Qadry “The Missile” Ismail, who went on to become a college football and NFL star, said he and his brother, the legendary Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, will be on hand. “Road Trip!!! Rocket n Missile (Raghib and I) gonna roll up to the Backyard Brawl! Meyers v. GAR,” Qadry Ismail posited on Facebook the other day. Qadry Ismail, the lone Wyoming Valley native to ever win a Super Bowl in the NFL, also posted some trash talk, literally, about what Meyers people often said the letters GAR stand for — Garbage, Ashes and Rubbish. “The thing that comes to mind is the rich tradition of this game,” Ismail said in a phone call Monday. “There is something about high school football that is unlike any other. It will be a fun time. Win or lose, both sides are going to be winners,” he said. While bittersweet, the merger is the dawn of a new day for Wilkes-Barre athletes, said Qadry Ismail, who now is a television analyst covering the Baltimore Ravens, the team he won a Super Bowl with in 2001. “This signifies an end of one era and a beginning of a new one. We’ll look at this as the start of Wyoming Valley East versus Wyoming Valley West,” Qadry Ismail said. During the late 1980s, Meyers and GAR simultaneously had two budding football superstars who would stoke the rivalry and go on to star in college and the NFL. “Rocket” Ismail, the speedster running back and wide receiver, starred for Meyers before getting a scholarship to the University of Notre Dame, where he was considered the nation’s most electrifying player. Greg Skrepenak, the big offensive lineman, suited up for GAR and went to play for the University of Michigan. For years, the Meyers/GAR rivalry continued before a national audience when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish played the Michigan Wolverines. Later, “Rocket” Ismail and Skrepenak would finally join forces when they were teammates in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders and Carolina Panthers. Qadry Ismail was no slouch himself, staring at Meyers before taking his talents to Syracuse University and then various NFL teams. Social media in recent years has allowed high school teammates and rivals to reconnect, he said. “You get a chance to talk about your past experiences and this game in particular,” Qadry Ismail said. Skrepenak took an opportunity to respond to Ismail’s “Garbage. Ashes. Rubbish.” comment, pointing out GAR was located high in the Heights, while Meyers is located down below in South Wilkes-Barre. “We’re on the hill, so we always knew everything flowed downhill,” Skrepenak said. Teammates and rivals will unite prior to game. Skrepenak, ever loyal to GAR, and Gene Maffei, a Meyers grad, are hosting a tailgate party prior to the game at Miner Park being called “Last Call for the Brawl.” The event runs 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. prior to the 3;30 p.m. kickoff. The event is free and the public is welcome. “We are trying to celebrate the rivalry and pay homage to our respective schools,” Skrepenak said Monday. Skrepenak said he enjoyed the GAR/Meyers rivalry as much as when his Michigan Wolvernies took on the Ohio State Buckeyes. He rattled off names of those who starred in the big game over the years, guys like Mickey Dudish, Lee Dudick, Todd Moules, Bobby Tompko, Charlie Wysocki, Shakir Soto and Mark Glowinski. Skrepenak noted the late Mickey Gorham went to GAR, played for Notre Dame, and then became a legendary coach for Meyers. Skrepenak said he is sad to see the rivalry end, but understands it’s likely was the only option. “For 48 years of my life, GAR has meant a lot to me. It’s going to leave a big void in my heart. But instead of being sad and angry, we want to come together and celebrate,” Skrepenak said. “I really hope the Wilkes-Barre Area School District treats this as the spectacle it should be. It should bring our community together.” Contact the writer: bkalinowski@citizensvoice.com 570-821-2055, @cvbobkal

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