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Roughriders alumni game set Saturday

WHEELING — There promises to be some hard hitting Saturday night inside WesBanco Arena.

No, the Wheeling Nailers aren’t taking the ice, not is the Ohio Valley Toughman Contest in town. Instead, former members of the Richmond and West Virginia Roughriders indoor football franchises will square off in the inaugural Alumni Game.

“There’s going to be some blood, sweat and tears,” franchise co-owner Gregg Fornario said in a telephone call Monday afternoon. “There’s a lot of bragging rights at stakes between the two cities.”

While the two 20-player rosters aren’t etched in stone quite yet, the players will be divided up between “Team Mook” and “Team Hardy.”

“Mook” Zimmerman coached the Roughriders during the only — and magical — season in “The Friendly City” when they went 13-0 and captured the American Arena League championship in the process. “Team Hardy” will be led by former Dallas Cowboy and current UFC fighter Greg Hardy, who suffered a knockout loss as part of the undercard of last weekend’s Dustin Poirier-Conor McGregor fight.

Fornario did say, however, that former local products Cole Smelley (Bridgeport) and Connor Arlia (Madonna) will be participating, but on different teams.

“They will be hitting each other,” Fornario said.

He said the game itself will be like a regular indoor football game.

“It will be 100 percent a full game. Everything that took place during a Roughrider game in the past will take place, including halftime festivities and such,” he added.

A highlight of the evening will be raising of the 2019 AAL Championship banner to the rafters of WesBanco Arena.

“That is going to be something special,” Fornario predicted. “We will raise that banner right before the opening kickoff.”

He was also pleased to announce that WesBanco Arena will be open for 100 percent capacity.

“So far ticket sales have been good. When we started selling them the arena was only allowed up to 30-percent capacity, so we were seating people in pods, but now that it is opened fully, we’re ready to fill it up.”

Two players who are scheduled to perform are quarterbacks Steve Panasuk and Arvell Nelson.

Panasuk came out of his brief retirement and signed with the West Virginia Roughriders of the AAL prior to the last regular season game in 2019. The team went on to win the AAL Championship. He saw limited action in relief of former West Virginia University quarterback Jarret Brown. In one regular season game and three postseason games, Panasuk accounted for 362 yards and seven total touchdowns.

Nelson played for the Richmond Roughriders in 2018. He was the ArenaBowl XXXI Most Valuable Player when he led the Washington Valor to the AFL title. In two years with the Cleveland Gladiators, Nelson passed for 6,509 yards, and 131 TDs and just 24 Ints.

The Roughriders were 19-2 in two seasons in Richmond, winning the only Arena Pro Football championship in history to cap the 2017 campaign.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

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