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Roncalli documents football history

Stephanie Litzen, left and Billy Young hold a copy of the book they produced on the history of football at Aberdeen Roncalli. Photo by John Davis taken 9/2/2021

Aberdeen Roncalli has discovered that it’s current state of football is really not all that much different than it’s past.

Cavaliers football coach Billy Young spearheaded a project to record the gridiron history of the school. During the course of the project, he found out that while there has been numerous advances in the sport, things aren’t vastly different than they were nearly 50 years ago.

“A colleague of ours found a 1966 playbook. Their neighbor was remodeling their home and found it stuck in a wall. It was a playbook from the first varsity football team,” Young said. “I was thumbing through it and I realized the more things change the more they stay the same. Some of the same exact concepts we’re still using in 2021, they were using in 1966. We just call it something different, but it’s a lot of the same concepts and plays that we run now. We like to think we’re more innovative now, but we’re really not.”

The book is full of recaps of contests from the origins of Roncalli football to the present. It sells for $25 with proceeds going to the Roncalli Booster Club.

Young got the idea from his coaching days down in Texas.

He talked to Stephanie Litzen the Roncalli Journalism advisor who played a key role in the project.

Litzen said a big challenge was deciding which articles to put on the page and making sure they fit.

“I would take yearbook stories, yearbook pictures, Cavalcade and then American News and try to fit it all and choose,” Litzen said. “I didn’t know all the time what was the best choice, so sometimes especially with the big seasons, I’d have 25 articles that could go in and then how do you decide what should and shouldn’t go?”

While Young saw a similar project take shape in Texas, he had an active role in the Roncalli book.

“I really didn’t realize early on what we were getting ourselves into and how much work it was actually going to be,” Young said. “From collecting the information to probably the hardest part was doing the lay out and getting everything to fit on a page correctly.”

The book features a variety of clippings of stories and photos from games involving Roncalli through the years.

Litzen said people’s responses have been very positive.

“They’ve been very receptive about the idea,” she said. “A couple people have said are you worried they’re going to ask you about basketball next?”

Both Litzen and Young said one of the most enjoyable aspects of looking back at Roncalli football history has been seeing how many current parents of players were once members of the Cavalier football teams themselves.

“I think the thing that really impressed me the most, it’s not really a surprise, but the number of people that you’d see them, and then their kids, it’s just such a continuous process,” Litzen said. “For me the community aspect was really my favorite part.”

While Young did not grow up in Aberdeen, he has recognized some faces on teams from decades ago. It has helped to produce more than a few smiles.

“It’s funny to see a lot of these people who are maybe parents of my players now or whatever and see what they looked like when they were 17 or 18,” he said. “Maybe I’ll give them a little bit of a hard time about it.”

The book can be purchased by contacting the school. It is also available on various game nights.

Young believes that preserving history is a worthwhile goal, even if it looks a lot like the present.

“I was fortunate enough to play at a school where football was a really big deal. I feel like that’s the same here. I’m a big history buff and I really love reading about history and things like that, especially local history,” Young said. “I think preserving that (is important), otherwise these articles are going to be put away in a box somewhere and maybe never looked at again.”

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