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Shippensburg football wins for community

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If you look toward the north end zone of Veterans Memorial Park on any given Friday night in the fall, you'll find a pack of Greyhound fans who have been cheering from that same spot for decades.

Middle school, JV and varsity football games. It doesn't matter. They bleed maroon and grey.

And that's just a small piece of the Shippensburg community that comes together each and every Friday to support the Greyhound football team. But last week those cheers were a little bit sweeter, when the second-seeded Greyhounds hosted the first round of District 3 Class 4A playoffs, bringing postseason football action to Shippensburg for the first time since 2010.

A 28-17 victory over Northern York to keep home field advantage for the next round was just the icing on the cake.

Charlie Heckman, a member of the North end zone cheering section said, "If it weren't for those boys I wish the score was 17-16 (the score of the regular season game when Northern beat Shippensburg in the final 30 seconds), because that's what football is about. But I'll take a 64-3 win for Ship because we want to be here next week and do the same thing again. I look forward to it."

"Knowing that we had the home game against Northern was huge with it being our only loss this season, so it meant the world to us," Shippensburg running back Adam Houser said "but also it meant the world to our community to have a home playoff game and to know that if we win we have another. Needless to say its going to be a tough game next week, but it does mean a lot."

Shippensburg is on an incredible 23-game winning streak at Memorial Park, according to coach Eric Foust - and the Greyhound fans in the north end zone have seen almost of them.

"The oldest one of our group is 89 years old," Heckman said. "It goes anywhere between 30 to 80, almost 90 years old. We do it for basketball, football and baseball. We just enjoy it and we take it very serious."

"We're here every home game and we travel to away games," said Ron Frey, a north end zoner and great-uncle of Shippensburg sophomore Cole Frey. "We don't miss too many games. They're going to put concrete with our foot prints right here in this spot."

It's not hard to see the outpouring of community support that surrounds the Greyhound football team. Generations of alumni, parents, grandparents - even students from rival high schools around Franklin County - packed Memorial Park for a historic night for the program. And you bet they'll be back again next week when Shippensburg hosts Bishop McDevitt in a district semifinal.

"It's amazing how many of those younger players come over to see us," Frey said. "We stand here and wait and they'll come over. They want to shake our hand, they want to thank us for being here and they know we support them all the way. We think the world of them."

"The whole world says the younger generation is no good, and they're wrong," Heckman said. "It's because they don't get among the younger generation. If they did, they'd understand that those boys are the same that we were, just years between."

Next week the oldest of the end zone cheering section will return to the group to watch the Greyhounds play in the semifinal - despite battling pneumonia.

John Sheaffer, 89, is one of the Greyhounds biggest - and oldest - fans, and despite a slew of health issues, he wants to be back in the end zone to watch the football team play at least once more this season.

"Even at 89 he makes almost every game," Heckman said. "He's had a hard time (with his health) this year, but next week he's coming if we have to park the car right here on the grass."

"We have tremendous crowds here," Shippensburg coach Eric Foust said. "Our fans are really into the game and it's a big deal for our kids. What's made it nice is these are very good kids to coach, so when you're coaching very good kids and the community gets behind them a little bit, it's a really good feeling."