The Hornets and Buckhorns will meet in Friday night's 25th annual event, hosted by the Wayne-Pike Shrine Club

Wayne-Pike Shrine Club officials are deep into preparations for their annual high school football classic, which will celebrate its silver anniversary this coming weekend.

On Friday night, ancient gridiron rivals Honesdale and Wallenpaupack Area will square off in the 25th annual Shrine Bowl, which this year also represents a key Lackawanna Football Conference showdown.

Kick-Off Dinner

The Hornets have won two of their first three LFC games, but are now in search of a signature victory over their archrivals.

The Buckhorns are 1-2 and coming off a tough loss at the hands of defending District Two Class 4A champion North Pocono.

Both coaching staffs were on hand Sunday evening for the annual Kick-Off Dinner, which was hosted this year by The Alpine.

“It's always an honor to play in this game,” Coach Mike Jurkowski said. “The Shriners do such amazing work and we're proud to be able to support them.

“The Shrine Bowl is a big event and the fact that we're playing Paupack just adds to the excitement. They're a good team. They're big, physical and well-coached. It's going to be another battle, that's for sure.”

Paupack's veteran coach, Dr. Mark Watson, echoed those sentiments.

“It's a special game and I know that the kids really looks forward to it,” he said. “Honesdale is a much-improved team. They have some big linemen and a couple of very talented running backs.

“It should be a hard-hitting game … good, old-fashioned smash-mouth football. I think the fans are in for a treat.”

Opening kick-off for the 25th Annual Shrine Bowl Classic is slated for 7 p.m. Friday night in Honesdale.

Selfless Dedication

All proceeds from the event will go to the Wayne-Pike Shrine Club and their quest to help local kids in their hour of need.

“I've had the privilege of of our hospitals,” longtime Shriner and former Hornet football standout Brian Wilken said. “I truly left there forever changed.

“Once you see the miracles that happen at a Shriners Hospital, you just want to help out anyway that you can.”

Harrison “Hap” Balthaser was Shrine Club president back when the inaugural game was played. He was also on hand Sunday for the 25th Kick-Off Dinner.

“I'm happy that the game is still going strong,” Hap said. “There have been a lot of guys who've worked hard on it over the years.”

Ray Queipo and Dick Osborne were the the first organizers, while men like Ken Dickinson, Les Soden, Edward Freeman, Roger Dirlam, Walter Klein, Les Davis and Pete Wilken also played key roles … to name just a few.

According to Balthaser, the Shrine Bowl Classic generates, on average, about $25,000 each year. And, every dollar of that amount goes to helping kids.

“It's a great organization that I've always been proud to be part of,” Hap said.

Keys to the Game

Honesdale is emerging as one of the area's genuine “feel good” stories of the fall sports season.

The Hornets suffered through one of their worst seasons in school history last year, going 0-10 and losing each game by an average margin of 42-7.

It's been a different story this season, though, as the Red & Black have powered their way to a 2-1 mark.

With Hall of Famer Allen “Butch” Keller back on the sidelines and directing a bruising offensive attack, the Hornets have already scored 93 points this year.

Andy Carroll and Garyn Barnes lead the way.

Carroll is a talented junior tailback who's quickly emerging as one of the most feared runners in the entire LFC. Through three weeks of action, Andy has piled up 526 yards and five touchdowns.

Barnes is also coming on strong. A senior and three-year varsity player, Garyn has amassed nearly 200 yards and is averaging 6.3 yards per carry.

In addition, quarterback Ethan Dunn is getting better every week. The scrappy junior signal caller has completed nearly 50 percent of his passes for 283 yards and a pair of scores.

Meanwhile, Paupack has a potent 1-2 punch of its own on offense. Joe Ingulli and Nick Ruggieri are wreaking havoc on enemy defenses after three games.

Ingulli is a junior who lines up at tailback. He's accumulated 286 yards, scored three touchdowns and is second among LFC Division I rushers.

Ruggieri is a also a junior and holds down the fullback spot. Nick is averaging more than four yards per carry, has tallied one TD and is sixth among Division I running backs.

Paupack's quarterback is Tom McCormick. A big-armed junior who's already seen a great deal of varsity action, McCormick has completed more than 50 percent of his passes good for nearly 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

A Long Tradition

The Wayne-Pike Shrine Bowl tradition stretches back to 1992 when the first game was played between Honesdale and Paupack.

Over the course of this quarter century, Western Wayne and Delaware Valley have also competed in the event.

“There are 23 Shriners Hospitals helping children every day,” Brian said.

“Events like the Shrine Bowl help pay for their care. No child is ever turned away because of their family's ability to pay.”

Members of the local Shrine Club are forever grateful for the backing they've received from the local communities.

“We've been organizing this game for 25 years now and it couldn't happed without this tremendous support,” Brian said. “To everyone who has supported this game in anw way, we say thank you!

“To the many players, coaches, cheerleaders and band members who've been part of this over the years, thank you!”