Bags go flying to keep pigskin flying

·3 min read

Jul. 31—RICE TWP. — The sun was shining and the bags were flying as the Mountain Top Junior Comets mini football organization held their annual cornhole tournament to raise money for the team's equipment and registration fees.

Held outside the American Legion Post 781 next to the Mountain Post baseball field in Rice Township, the third annual Junior Comets tourney brought players of all ages out to the boards to try and win the whole thing — while at the same time, helping the program purchase equipment for the children playing in the program, along with covering other costs.

"It's a huge help," said Gary Gensil, one of the main organizers behind the yearly cornhole tournament. "It's the way we could supply these kids with the newest, latest and greatest equipment."

Gensil and Jake Boyle were manning the registration tent as teams began to filter into the pavilion outside the Legion hall to sign themselves in for the tournament.

The tournament was split into two age brackets: the children's 13 years old and under bracket, and the adult bracket. The organizers said that, with pre-registration numbers, they had 13 adult teams and eight children's teams signed up to play, with walk-ons welcomed before the 1 p.m. start time, as well.

Among the children's bracket competitors raring to go was Boyle's son Seth, 11, a member of the Junior Comets with six years of experience playing football.

When asked about his chances of victory on Saturday, he shrugged and said "Hopefully, it depends on if we could get the bags in the hole."

Before the tournament began, participants were invited to hang out under the pavilion, or pop on over to the concession stand and check out the spread provided by Junior Comets concessions manager Mike Lazo.

The idea for the cornhole tournament came from a previous Jr. Comets fundraising function, tweaked to allow for more participation from the youth athletes.

"We used to have a golf tournament, but that wasn't really inclusive of the kids," Boyle said. "Kids won't go out and play 18 holes, but they'll come here and throw beanbags."

Additional funds were drummed up via the "basket of cheer" raffle — money for the Junior Comets cheer team, with the winner of the raffle going home with an assorted basket of liquor, certain to bring a lot of cheer to that lucky winner.

Junior Comets practices have already started and the first games are just two weeks away, and if the great turnout at Saturday's tournament is any indication, the young athletes will have plenty of community support — and their parents will have some financial headaches eased — when they hit the field.

"Football uniforms and equipment, and just making sure everything's up to code and safety for these kids, is huge," Boyle said. "If we weren't able to do these kinds of fundraisers, our registration costs would be through the roof."

Gensil added, "It's definitely crucial ... without fundraising, we couldn't do what we need to do."