Around District 11: The Travels of Guy & Pam – Back on the GEFA Trail
Tagged under: 8-Man League, GEFA, News
Billy Splain | May 18, 2023
Around District 11: The Travels of Guy & Pam
Back on the GEFA Trail
2023.03. Our first game of 2023 was the NFL New York Giants playoff-clinching win on New Year’s Day. For our 2nd game, we decided to attend our first-ever 8-Man semi-pro game. The league was the Great Eastern Football Association, an established league that PA Football News had recently started promoting.
We had never heard of the league, but immediately started getting up to speed. We learned the league was formed in 2005, and for 2023 had 14 teams representing two divisions. All teams were located in the eastern portion of Pennsylvania.
We looked at the teams and their locations, and found that the Carbon County Savages were the team located closest to us, in Palmerton. However, only two games into the season the team folded and we had to find another to visit. The choice was the Snyder County Spartans at Wilkes-Barre Warriors. We enjoyed our first GEFA game, although it was a blowout with Wilkes-Barre running up the score to the tune of a 72-6 win, the Spartans only score coming on a pick-six. There was no question we enjoyed it enough to want to try another game for another home team.
However, spring is tough for us to carve out time for 8-man football, as we are into all sorts of other sports, and all GEFA games are on Saturdays. The Saturday following our GEFA debut game, we were at Kutztown University for a men’s rugby 7s tournament. The next Saturday, it was a big outdoor track meet invitational at Moravian College. Then came a USPL soccer game for the Pennsylvania Prime at Cedar Crest College. Finally, on the first Saturday of May we were in New York to see Modified Stock Cars race at the Chemung Speedrome.
Pam has spent the last twenty years as a professor at Bloomsburg University, and this was her last. Her final duty before riding off into the retirement sunset was to hood her final grad students at the graduation ceremony last Saturday. Of course being her last one, Guy accompanied her. But when we learned that this year’s ceremony was slated to begin at 9:30 and last approximately two hours, it looked like the perfect opportunity to hood, hug, pose, and get the heck out of there for some 8-man football!
So this time we looked for the home team not closest to our house, but closest to Bloomsburg University. And that would be the Susquehanna Valley Bolts, playing at Nescopek Borough Field, less than a half hour from Bloomsburg. We were all set. Or so we thought.
We woke on graduation/game day morning to a text from PA Football News colleague Hollywood Brian Ptashinski saying that late the previous evening, the Bolts had folded. Not again! This time it was not two games into the season, but with two games left in the season. Why would a team fold so close to the end of the season?
As we hurried to get ready to leave for graduation, we scrambled to see if there was an alternative. Pickings were slim, as of the six scheduled games, two were forfeits by teams that folded. The team in Drums, the Hazleton Mustangs, was away. But there was hope. The Snyder County Spartans, the same team we had seen play at Wilkes-Barre, had a home game in Selinsgrove. That’s a 45-50 minute ride from Bloomsburg and in the opposite direction of home, but we figured if all went perfectly we could make opening kickoff, and if not, we wouldn’t miss all that much.
Of course things did not go perfectly, and we did miss the beginning of the game, arriving near the end of the first quarter. The Snyder County Spartans play at East Snyder Park in Selinsgrove. We had been to Selinsgrove many times before to see the Sprint Car races at Selinsgrove Speedway. We had also been there for football, at the Selinsgrove Seals high school stadium.
The Spartans entered the game with a record of 2-5. They were playing the Somerset County Miners, the only winless GEFA team, with a record of 0-7. When we arrived, it was a competitive game with the Spartans up 12-6.
With only one prior game for comparison, here are differences we noted between “The BOG” in Wilkes-Barre and Snyder County Park. One difference was that there were bleacher seats here where there were none in WB. However, they were only a few rows high and placed in the middle of the field on the home side, meaning the players on the sideline obstructed the view of the field. We set up our lawn chairs here for better view, just like at WB.
Wilkes-Barre had both a team refreshment stand and a city-licensed food truck vendor at their game. There was no food or drink available at Snyder. That really isn’t surprising, as the crowd in WB was much larger. Snyder had spacious and clean permanent restrooms near the field, while WB had portas. Both had manual scoreboards. Snyder’s was stationary and thus easy to locate, while at WB a wandering individual wore it around his neck like bling, and thus could be hard to find amongst the crowd at that game.
The Spartans defense completed a near goal-line stand right before halftime, and if the Miners would have scored it would have been tied or they would have been up two at the break.
We were kind of rooting for the Miners to get that first win, but it was not to be as the second half was mostly all Spartans and they pulled away for a 42-12 win. The Miners impressed, as they hung tough into the third quarter without having many extra players to substitute.
We both agreed that we liked the vibe at this game better than the first. At the first game, while the flashy WB Warriors aerial show was exciting to watch, they seemed to relish running up the score, even calling timeout with a few seconds left rather than let the clock run out, just to throw to the end zone to increase their 60 point lead, and then arguing with the ref that they wanted to attempt the two-point conversion while up 66 with no time left. In this game, the Spartans, up 30, took a knee at the end out of respect for the gutty performance of the Miners, their fans, the league, and for the game itself. We don’t see where blowouts like last week’s 108-0 score help this league in any way, and perhaps it played a part in the expansion team Bolts abrupt fold less than 24 hours before their next game. It looked like BOTH teams enjoyed playing in this one.
One amazing story on the Spartans is the father and son teammates of John Beachel and John “Pappy” Beachel, Sr. Pappy is 54 years old and there was a buzz in the crowd (“Pappy’s in the game!) when Pappy donned the helmet and trotted out onto the playing field. And they say TB12 is too old to play football. Pappy shows ‘em how it’s done.
Multiple rookies on the Spartans roster come from the Mansfield University CSFL “Sprint Football” team. That seems like a natural progression for those that want to continue to play the game after their college careers have ended.
We are hoping to get to one more GEFA game in 2023. It won’t be this week, as we are committed to USL2 Philadelphia Lone Star soccer on Saturday. We have a four-sport weekend on tap, with minor league baseball, dirt-track sprint car racing, minor league soccer, and high school football all-star games. The last Saturday of the GEFA regular season is June 3, so we will likely pick one of the five remaining scheduled games for that day.
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