WHEELING - The excitement is starting to build for the men who will make their triumphant return to Wheeling Island Stadium on Sunday night.
''I'm looking forward to it,'' said Lou Vidoni, who represented the Warwood Vikings on the West Virginia squad in the 1961 OVAC All-Star Football Game. ''I'm really happy about it.''
Vidoni, along with a handful of his brethren from the 1961 and 1962 games, met for lunch at WesBanco Arena on Tuesday to finalize plans for Sunday's reunion at the 68th annual Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Football Charity Classic.
''It's great seeing everyone,'' Vidoni, who played quarterback in the '61 contest, said.
The former players mingled and shared stories before lunch. After eating, they heard from OVAC Executive Secretary Tom Rataiczak, All-Star Game Director Bob Koch, and John Howell, the man in charge of the reunion.
''This is what the game is all about,'' Rataiczak told the group, adding sometimes the younger generations doesn't realize its importance.
Vidoni sure relishes his memories of it.
''It's great seeing everyone,'' he said, pointing to former Weir standout, and OVAC Hall of Famer, Bob Kelley who was sitting next to him. ''Bob was one of the best players I ever saw or played with.''
To this day, Vidoni said memories of that July night 52 years ago still crop up in conversations.
''Harry O'Connell (his Wellsburg High School teammate in the game), I see him every two weeks or so and we always talk about what happened in the game. It brings back a lot of memories. It was very enjoyable.
''On a scale of 10 the all-star game was about a 9. There was like a bond that brought a lot of people together.''
The players will be brought onto the field Sunday during the first television timeout which kicks off at 7:15 p.m.
In addition to the reunion, there will be a plethora of other activities during the game, including a halftime performance by the McDonald's All-Star Band and the crowning of the Queen of Queens winner. Those facets help make the OVAC event the crown jewel of all-star games, according to Koch.
''We have expanded on what Rudy and Sam (Mumley) started,'' Koch told the gathering. ''This is one all-star game that has a lot of support from a lot of people.''
The complete rosters for the 1961 and 1962 OVAC?All-Star Games:
The following from the 1961 game will be honored: Ohio - Dennis Bowman, Bridgeport; Jack Brown, Barnesville; Norm Bruchey, Bellaire; Rich Cavicchia, St. John; Bill Deal, Martins Ferry (deceased); Fred DiDonato, Steub. Catholic; Jim Doty, Martins Ferry (deceased); Bobby Douglas, Bridgeport; Dick Ferda, Adena; Ed Fisher, Wintersville; Rich Gatchel, Dillonvale (deceased); Geon; Paul Hackett, Toronto (deceased); Jim Hartzell, Jefferson Union; Ken Holmes, Warren Consolidated; Paul Kenny, Steub. Catholic; Gary Lucas, Barnesville; Marinacci; Lynn McCutcheon, Brilliant; Roger Merriman, Wellsville; Tom Starks, St. Clairsville; Charles Tucker, Bellaire (deceased); Frank Vostatek, Yorkville; Ted Wierzbiecki, Bridgeport; Jim Wilson, Wintersville; Coach Ault; West Virginia: Anthony Anastasio, Follansbee St. Anthony; Ray Bauer Triadelphia; Berletch; Harry Burns, Weir; Mike Ciccolella, Follansbee St. Anthony; Jerry Drake, Moundsville; Heckner; Kent Householder, Follansbee; Jon Julio, Follansbee St. Anthony; Bob Kelly, Weir; John Lapinsky, Wheeling; Chester Michael, Magnolia (deceased); Moore; Harry O'Connell, Wellsburg; Anthony Petricca, Madonna; Gary Pugh, Chester; Eddie Raper, Wheeling; Don Rice, Wheeling; Schellhase; Jim Schuetz, Wheeling Central; William Stuart, Magnolia; Lou Vidoni, Warwood; Nelson Whipkey, Cameron; McArthur Williams, Weir; Tom Wood, Moundsville (deceased); Coach Charles Helinski, Moundsville (deceased).
The following from the 1962 game will be honored: Ohio - Barnes; Brian Baiocco, Tiltonsville; Bill Britt, Martins Ferry; Castner; Dwight Cunningham, Cadiz; John Dagan, Mingo (deceased); Dale Deaton, Martins Ferry; Dye; Jim Ferello, East Liverpool; Caluzell Harvey, Bellaire; Herrick; Carl Hoppell, Beaver Local; Bob Howard, Martins Ferry (deceased); Kniszek; Dave Kovalick, Bridgeport; Raymond Rataiczak, Powhatan; George Reed, Barnesville; Rose; Joe Smolira, Union Local; Clyde Starr, Cadiz; Bill Thoburn, Martins Ferry; Jay Toohey, Barnesville; Chuck Waligura, Wayne; Ken Wooddell, Bellaire (deceased); Yanda; Urbanic, Dillonvale-Triadelphia; West Virginia: Barber; Bill Barnhart, Weir; Braun; Cooper; Dragovich; John Flading, Bishop Donahue; Clark Gable, Wheeling; Grandstaff; Fred Hammers, Triadelphia; Kufner; Enzo Martino, Follansbee St. Anthony; Ken Morgan, Wheeling; Nardo; Don Reese, Chester; Don Rice, Hundred (deceased); Benton Rogerson, Union; Romanosky; Ed Rose, Wheeling; Terry Shimp, Moundsville; Mike Skypack, Bishop Donahue; Bill Thompson, Weir (deceased); Henry Thomas, Weir (deceased); Bill Tucker, Weir; Wisher; Gary Zelenski, Union; Coach Sullivan.