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Crusader Football Players, Alums, Coaches Reunite for Annual Dinner

New this year was the playing of vintage tapes highlighting Crusader exploits of years passed.

AD and former head coach Gus Kalikas, current head coach Mike Mancino, former AD and assistant coach Carl Peterson, assistant superintendent Ed Grande, former head coach and Coach of the Year Bob Taylor, event organizer and emcee Ken Drake.
AD and former head coach Gus Kalikas, current head coach Mike Mancino, former AD and assistant coach Carl Peterson, assistant superintendent Ed Grande, former head coach and Coach of the Year Bob Taylor, event organizer and emcee Ken Drake.

The Arthur L. Johnson High School intergenerational Alumni Football Dinner was held in the school cafeteria this past week, as it has been every Thanksgiving Eve since 1997.

In keeping with his 17-year role, dinner organizer Ken Drake served as the master of ceremonies and facilitator for the evening. Drake commenced the evening by introducing the various guests, including current and former administrators, athletic directors and coaches. 

Then, returning alumni – dating back to the school’s first decade – stood up and introduced themselves, stating their name, the position they played and the head coach they played under. Each of the three head football coaches in attendance were recognized as well: Bob Taylor, Gus Kalikas and current coach Mike Mancino. Coach Bob Taylor was recognized for leading the 1995 team to a state championship. 

After a break for a Thanksgiving Eve buffet dinner, the program continued with a short address by Drake, some words from former players and current college players, an overview of the season by Mancino, and an introduction of the current players. The seniors were called up and each received a personalized introduction by Mancino, highlighting that individual’s contributions toward the team’s effort, at which point the senior captains were recognized and thanked for their leadership.

A new addition to the program this year included trivia questions on the history of Crusader football, with various coaches and alumni answering. Correct responders were presented with various gifts in the form of team shirts and apparel. 

Also new this year was the playing of vintage tapes, generously donated by alumni, highlighting Crusader exploits of years passed. The evening concluded with the viewing of a highlight film of the 2013 Crusader season, which the team completed with a 5–5 record. Current and former players, coaches and administrators lingered in the cafeteria long after the official end of the dinner, catching up with each other and sharing stories of days long passed from the gridiron.

"The annual Alumni Dinner is a valued and cherished part of our district culture," said Clark Superintendent Ken Knops. "I look forward to attending the dinner each year and haven’t missed one during my tenure as superintendent. Ken Drake does a wonderful job organizing, facilitating, and running the evening. It’s always a delight to see the former coaches who are held in such high esteem by their players. Bob Taylor, Carl Peterson and Coach Albano always lighten up the room when they enter it; former players are so happy to see them. It’s also good for our current players to see the legacy of the football program and meet the players and coaches who shaped such a vital tradition which we are all proud of.”

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