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Wall set to honor past champions on Friday night

October 4, 2012

Wall Football Notebook

WALL TOWNSHIP — The 1982 and 2002 Wall Football teams are connected in more ways than one.

Not only are the two teams both famously remembered for earning state championships for the high school, but, it was also during the 2002 team’s state championship game against Middletown South nearly a decade ago that the 1982 team was honored for the 20-year anniversary of its title. The two teams will share another connection tomorrow night, when both are recognized by Wall High School and the Crimson Knight football program for their past accomplishments.

“There has always been a connection between the two teams,” said 1982 team member Fred Sprengel of the 2002 team. “It will be a neat thing to be honored the same night as them.”

Tomorrow night, the 1982 team will honored for the 30th anniversary of its memorable, state championship season, in which the group went 11-o and won the first state title in program history.

Sprengel is part of a small group of people that had the difficult task of rounding up former teammates and friends of three decades ago. Sprengel said out of 35 players on the 1982 roster, he expects approximately 20-25 t0 be in attendance.

“There were some guys we didn’t have luck reaching, but there will be a good amount of players there,” he said. “Some guys have left the area and can’t make it, while others are traveling from a distance to come. Fortunately, there are some guys who are still local that will also be able to come.”

One person who will be absent from the festivities, however, will be head coach of the 1982 team, John Amabile, who passed away in April. Standing in for Amabile, though, will be his wife, Sue, who will be in attendance to help honor her late husband’s memory.

Sprengel noted he hopes a couple of assistant coaches from the 1982 will be in attendance, as well.

The 2002 team, which went 11-1, will also be honored and led onto the field by Chris Barnes.

Barnes, who following last season stepped down as head coach of the football program after 12 years to spend more time with his family, remembers the 2002 season as “a great experience.”

“It was a great year,” said Barnes, who remains employed at Wall High School as a guidance counselor. “It was special for everyone — the players, the coaches, the community.”

Barnes has had some contact with players from the 2002 team, he said.

“Over the last decade, I have run into many of them who have graduated college and are on to their careers,” said Barnes. “There is also the occasional phone call or email.”

The former coach said he also looks forward to seeing those players from the team that he has not encountered since they graduated from Wall.

“I really look forward to seeing some of the young men I have not seen in a long time,” he said.

Current head coach of the Crimson Knights, Greg Gregorio, who took over for Barnes, knew coming to Wall there was a proud tradition of excellence within the high school football program. He acknowledged that he is looking forward to the experience of being around past champions of the school tomorrow night.

“It is going to be a great night to honor those guys and their achievements,” Gregorio said. “Hopefully it will motivate us as a program to get back to where they were.”

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