NEW PALESTINE — The grass on the field was frozen and hard to walk on, let alone play football on. The temperature outside was 28 degrees, with a pretty stiff breeze blowing through, making for the coldest day of the winter season.
AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” was blaring from portable speakers welcoming more than a dozen men dressed in old and worn football jerseys, sweatpants, hats and gloves. They showed up because it was tradition.
They were there to play some football.
Each year, on New Year’s Day, former New Palestine High School football players gather on the youth field behind Doe Creek Middle School to play a pick-up game of football — just like when they were kids.
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It all started a couple of decades ago when Charlie Hill, a former New Palestine High School and youth league football coach, got together with his three sons and other fathers and sons in the area to play an annual game.
Since then, the game has evolved into an annual reunion for all former Dragons football players who want to take part.
“It’s a fun thing for us to do,” Hill said. “This isn’t about what the rules are or what the technique is, it’s just about mixing it up and having fun.”
Just like in their youth, before any of the them played organized football, two captains take turns and select their teams from whomever shows up. After the players are divided, the two-hand touch game gets underway.
“This is our workout for the year,” Ty Hill joked.
He graduated in 2009. Hill, 24, one of Charlie Hill’s sons, hasn’t played organized football in years, but said he wouldn’t miss the annual game for anything.
“If I’m here in town, I’m definitely playing,” he said.
It’s the same for Trevor Steele, 21. He graduated in 2013, but began playing the game during his sophomore year.
He currently develops applications for cellphones, but every January he steps back on the field to revisit the glory days against and with his former Dragons teammates.
“Best part about this is getting the chance to see a lot of guys I don’t normally get the chance to see,” Steele said. “I get to see guys I played with and guys my older brother played with.”
They play on New Year’s Day because it’s really the only time of the year most of them can get together. And they play regardless of the weather.
“We’ve played in all different sorts of conditions,” Steele said. “The first year I played there was snow all over the ground and that was one of the funner games.”
While they play two-hand touch, with a five-apple count enforced before anyone can rush the quarterback, the game can get chippy, with guys ending up on the ground on every play.
“We get after it,” Sam Wright said.
Former standout running back James Young, who graduated last year, and a few other 2014-15 state championship players, including Chaz Hill and Carson Caldwell suited up for the game.
“It’s great to get out and play with the guys,” Caldwell said.
When asked if he thought the players were trying to relive some of their glory days from high school, Caldwell smiled and said, “yeah, maybe.”
J.D. Hill, got the first interception of the game and had a Go-Pro video recorder taped to his head trying to capture some fun highlights.
“It will be easy to record, but tough to edit,” he said before picking off one of Steele’s passes.
The highlights will no doubt be worthy bragging rights until the guys get together next year again — at the same time, same place, and always on the same day.