Here are the profiles for the four teams playing in Pairc Tailteann on Friday night in the GIFT 2012 games.Get your tickets at http://tickets.ie/GIFT2012.
Father Judge High School Crusaders
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Head Coach: Tom Coyle
2011 record: 7-4
Colours: As the designated away team, will wear sky blue jerseys and white helmets
Philadelphia’s Father Judge High School team finished with a won 7, lost 4 record in 2011. The football program, which competes in the Philadelphia Catholic 4-A league, has won five championships (1964, 1975, 1981, 1983, 1984) and most recently reached the championship game in 2008.
Head coach Tom Coyle was appointed in 2000, becoming the fifth head coach in school history having played linebacker for the Crusaders during his playing days. He spent 10 years as special teams coach and defensive coordinator at Penn Charter, where he began his coaching career as the linebackers coach.
Father Judge is a Roman Catholic high school that was established in 1954 by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia and is run by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.
Notre Dame Preparatory School Saints
Hometown: Scottsdale, Arizona
Head Coach: Gary Gregory
2011 record: 7-5, Reached First Round of the State Tournament
Colours: As the designated home team, will purple jerseys and gold helmets
No other team will make as emotional a journey across to Ireland for the GIFT 2012 event as the Notre Dame Preparatory School Saints football team and all who travel from Arizona to cheer them on at Páirc Tailteann. The Saints will pay tribute Scot Bemis, to the head football coach whose enthusiasm led to Notre Dame Prep committing to travel to Ireland, who tragically lost his life to cancer in January 2012.
Coach Bemis had been the only head coach of the school’s football program since its inception in 2002 and stepped down after the team’s first win of the 2011 season. The Saints went on to post a 7-5 record, losing in the quarterfinals of the State Tournament 21-14 to Ironwood Ridge. A website in memory of Coach Bemis can be found at http://www.teambemis.com/ .
Head Coach Gary Gregory, who will lead the team in Ireland, is no stranger to NDP athletics. Since it’s opening he has been the defensive coordinator for the football program and has coached softball and girls’ soccer. He was part of the coaching staff for both the 2007 and 2008 football state championships and the 2009 girls’ soccer state championship. In addition to the team honors he has received, Coach Gregory was been named the 2011 Scout.com Division II Coach of the Year and has also been named state and region assistant coach of the year numerous times.
Notre Dame Prep from won back-to-back Arizona Class 4A Division II championships in 2007 and 2008 and just missed out on the championship in 2010, losing a heartbreaking 49-48 game to Williams Field.
Oak Park High School vs Villanova College
The clash between Oak Park High School from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Villanova College from King City near Toronto, Ontario, will kick off a double-header of two games being played at the 20,000-capacity venue in Navan, County Meath, on Friday, August 31. The Canadian rivals will meet at 4pm, followed by a clash between Notre Dame Preparatory High School from Scottsdale, Arizona, and Father Judge High School of Philadelphia at 7.30pm.
One of the nation’s top-ranked high school teams, Oak Park suffered only one defeat in 2011 and reached the final of the Winnipeg High School Football League ANAVETS Bowl for the third year in a row as defending champions.
Head Coach Stuart Nixon, who has led the Raiders fortunes since 2003, said: “Everyone involved in our program is so excited to have the opportunity to take part in this tournament and showcase our team across the pond. A trip of this magnitude has involved a great deal of work on the part of the coaches, parents and players but I am sure it will be an unforgettable experience that will be well worth it.”
Villanova College was established in 1999 and the football program was started in 2002 under head coach Marcello Lio, who played American football with Bergamo and Nuremburg in Italy and Germany. Last season the Knights posted a 2-4 record.
“This is a great step forward in our young football program and we are very grateful to be one of only two Canadian high schools taking part in this historic international event,” said Coach Lio. “This is going to be a global event our football team will never forget. Our coaching staff has worked tirelessly at making this remarkable opportunity come to fruition. I sincerely have to thank our school administration and parents for their support.”