Prep Rally | It's a shame to see inevitable end to Brad Price Memorial PAL Bowl

jlembo@bradenton.comSeptember 27, 2013 

The PAL Bowl is no more.

That's a shame.

And it's not because it was an oil painting of a football game, because it wasn't.

And it's not because the game routinely packed bleachers all over Manatee and Sarasota counties, because it didn't.

It's a shame because it was an area tradition.

Traditions, especially ones that last 21 years, aren't easy to come by anymore.

You can't blame the organizers for pulling the plug. The game, an all-star event pitting senior football players from Manatee and Sarasota counties, had lost some luster.

The best players routinely didn't play because they didn't want to jeopardize their scholarships by getting hurt in an exhibition game.

"And you can't blame them," said Dave Bristow, the game's coordinator and a spokesperson for the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Others were lured away by national all-star extravaganzas, including the UnderArmour game at Tropicana Field.

Face it: Prep sports has become national now and little things like the Brad Price Memorial PAL Bowl, which doubled as a fundraiser to benefit Police Athletic Leagues in Manatee and Sarasota counties, are quickly getting swallowed up.

What makes high school sports, especially football, so special is the intimacy, the way they galvanize towns and bring people together.

The chilly reception received by the PAL Bowl is proof we've lost some of that.

Sure, the PAL Bowl had its blemishes.

The game took place after the season, so you weren't getting players still in football shape. And since different teams bow out at different times during the year, with some not making the playoffs and others making it all the way to a state final, Bristow said it was getting tougher and tougher to settle on a date.

But the PAL Bowl did yield some fun moments. One that comes to mind is in 2005, when the Manatee County team, coached by Southeast's Paul Maechtle, didn't have a quarterback on the roster because none of the county's QBs were seniors.

So Maechtle tabbed his do-everything dynamo, Faron Hornes, to line up under center. All Hornes did was total 270 yards of offense and lead his team to a win en route to earning the game's MVP award.

Then there was the game in 2011, when a pair of small-school players, Bradenton Christian kicker Austin Dumas and Saint Stephen's quarterback Jeremy Perron, came up huge during Manatee County's 10-9 victory.

It was funny seeing players wear helmets adorned with logos from each of the county's teams, just as it was to see guys from rival schools celebrate together after a late score or key tackle.

And the series' final tally of 10-10-1 meant each county has its own memories to savor.

Now it's gone.

No more PAL Bowl. No more banquet. No more chilly, weeklong practices when the goal is to do nothing more than have fun.

It was clear the PAL Bowl had run its course, that the players and community didn't embrace it anymore.

"We had a great run," Bristow said.

One that has met its inevitable end.

And that's too bad.

John Lembo, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7058. Follow him on Twitter at@JohnLembo1878.

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