One week from today, under Dublin Friday Night Lights, two Pennsylvania high school American football rivals will battle on the gridiron some 3,200 miles from home as the Cedar Cliff Colts and Penn Manor Comets clash in the Global Ireland Football Tournament (GIFT) 2014.
There might be a major college football contest being played the following day in the Croke Park Classic, but the GIFT partner event at the UCD Bowl on Friday, August 29 at 7pm local time (2pm EST) promises just as much excitement and is the perfect way to kick off a wild weekend of American football action.
The last time they met, Penn Manor edged Cedar Cliff in a 69-point thriller by a score of 35-34, as only a missed extra point enabled the Comets to advance in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) playoffs and ended the Colts’ quest for a championship.
The two teams might have be traveling across the Atlantic Ocean to come face to face in Dublin, but only 41 miles separates the Cedar Cliff base near Harrisburg, PA, and Lancaster, LA, home of Penn Manor.
The Global Ireland Football Tournament a glance
Venue: UCD Bowl, University College Dublin
Date: Friday, August 29
Kickoff: 7pm local time / 2pm US EST
Broadcast: sportslive.aertv.ie ($10 subscription)
Teams: Cedar Cliff Colts vs. Penn Manor Comets
Organizer: Global Football
Tickets: €10 adults, €5 students www.TicketGroup.ie
Honorary Chairman: Former Cedar Cliff, Penn State and NFL veteran tight end Kyle Brady
Cedar Cliff Head Coach Colin Gillen kicks off his tenure in charge of the Colts in Ireland. He began his coaching career as an assistant on the defensive line for the Huntingdon Bearcats as they won the Big Eight Football Conference and the District 6 AAA Championship. He spent the next seven years as an assistant offensive and defensive line coach at ELCO High School then in 2008 became assistant football coach at Cedar Cliff, where he coached offensive line for six years, highlighted by five straight District 3 AAAA playoff appearances and a Mid Penn Keystone Division Championship in 2013.
Penn Manor Head Coach Todd Mealy has accounted for nearly 30% of the football program’s victories, or 23 more wins than Penn Manor posted from 1990-2006, during his seven seasons at the helm. Mealy became Penn Manor’s all-time wins leader in 2012, accumulating a 50-31 overall record, including 49-22 since 2008. The Comets have had four nine-plus win seasons during that time. Penn Manor has made the District-3 AAAA playoffs six consecutive times, including a 5-6 overall playoff record and has finished with a winning record in Section-1 six of seven years.
“Ireland holds an allure for many of the high schools and colleges who have traveled with Global Football since we first started exporting the game of American football beyond the United States and of course, many Americans trace their heritage to Ireland,” explained Global Football President Patrick Steenberge.
“We held a hugely successful GIFT event in 2012 and made many wonderful friends and contacts that ultimately served as a catalyst for Penn State and the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) getting together to create the Croke Park Classic. It made sense for us to bring a high-profile high school game across the Atlantic as a partner event.”
Forgive former Penn State tight end Kyle Brady if he cheers for Cedar Cliff while performing Honorary Chairman duties for the GIFT 2014 game. A veteran of 13 NFL seasons for the Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots and New York Jets, Brady was a high school standout player for the Colts before making his mark with the Nittany Lions. Brady will perform the pre-game coin toss on Friday evening.
The key players
Cedar Cliff – Sophomore quarterback Grant Breneman steps into the spotlight and like his head coach Colin Gillen, will begin the new season steering the fortunes of the Colts for the first time. He will target experienced wide receivers John McGee and Noah Malone. Defensively, the Colts are led by linemen Dylan Farrow and Garrett Villar and linebackers Jordan Stiles and Cole Whalen.
Penn Manor – Quarterback Tenner Erisman threw for 1,383 yards and 11 touchdowns last season and will target receivers Keagan Gamber and Gerrin McKinnie, while Tyler Spanger poses a threat on the ground at running back. Defensive end Noah Braun and a trio of linebackers in Ashton Leschke, Seve Johnson and Carter Kinser promise to cause disruption on the other side of the ball.
Cedar Cliff Head Coach Colin Gillen: “We have had some hard fought games with Penn Manor the last two years in district playoffs and came up on the short end each time. Penn Manor is a team that is always very well coached and sound with their fundamentals. They pride themselves in running the football and stopping the run. They will provide a great challenge physically for us on the line of scrimmage both sides of the football. We are very excited for the opportunity to face them again on a big stage in Ireland.”
Penn Manor Head Coach Todd Mealy: “This trip is so much more than simply playing a football game, so on behalf of everyone at Penn Manor School District, we are grateful that Global Football has asked us to be part of this experience of a lifetime. For every player involved, the trip to Ireland will definitely be the most memorable experience of their high school career, and perhaps their college career. For many it will be the only time that they’ve left the country. For most, it will be their first time on an airplane.”
GIFT Honorary Chairman Kyle Brady: “Two of my alma maters will be playing over in Ireland, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing them play and am excited for the young guys. It is such a great opportunity for them to experience another culture and a different way of life that comes with that and to meet the people of Ireland. I am a first generation American, and in the last six or seven years I’ve connected with my family in Ireland and plan on reaching out to them to see if they will meet me and visit Mayo and Galway counties, where my ancestors are from.”
The last time they met…
Penn Manor staged an impressive 21-point comeback to win 35-34 in the opening round of the District 3-AAAA playoffs back in November. Quarterback Tanner Erisman threw a 32-yard touchdown on fourth down to trigger the scoring of 28 second half points for the Comets win. A two-yard run by Charles Bell, for his fourth touchdown of the game, with three and a half minutes remaining sealed victory.
Cedar Cliff and Penn Manor are due to arrive in Ireland on Wednesday, August 27 and will each practice twice at University College Dublin ahead of Friday’s game.
Wednesday, August 27, UCD Pitch 1
Penn Manor: 1.30pm – 4pm / Cedar Cliff: 4.30pm – 6.30pm
Thursday, August 28, UCD Pitch 1
Penn Manor: 9am – 11am / Cedar Cliff: 1.30pm – 3.30pm
Tickets for GIFT 2014
Available at www.TicketGroup.ie priced €10 for adults and €5 for students.
For fans not traveling to Ireland, the clash between the Colts and Comets will be streamed live on Aertv Sportslive (sportslive.aertv.ie) for a subscription of $10. Aertv is Ireland’s No.1 streaming service. Aertv is disrupting the TV landscape across Ireland by embracing mobile and video technology to distribute live content to a growing smart economy that consumes the majority of their TV content online.
Philippe Brodeur, director of Aertv said, “We are delighted to be a part of GIFT 2014, an exceptional and unique event in Ireland. Aertv gives real accessibility on every platform and device, which will be really important for the families and friends of players who can’t make it over. It’s the next best thing to being at the game!”