Allen Offenbacker says he wanted the chance to put on an Odessa High School football uniform one more time. He wanted to step onto the field with his teammates by his side and the bright lights shining down on him.
But more than anything, he just wanted an excuse to hit somebody.
Offenbacker was one of more than 60 players who took part Saturday in an inaugural Odessa vs. Oak Grove alumni football game.
Odessa won 18-7 on its home field. But it wasn’t really about the score.
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“You never quit loving the game of football,” said Offenbacker, 37. “I’m having a heck of a good time. I’ve missed this.”
The alumni teams featured graduates as recent as 2013 and as old as 1986.
A day after Oak Grove High School defeated Odessa 34-21, the Odessa graduates earned a form of payback. Even if doesn’t count toward any standings.
Odessa quarterback Tyler Jarvis threw a pair of touchdown passes to Michael Attebery, a 2009 high school graduate who later walked on to play football at Central Missouri.
“It’s kind of a revenge thing, I guess,” Attebery said. “We’re rivals. It’s always going to be a good time when you get us on the field and let us go at it.”
The players in Saturday’s game joined the rivalry for one more night. And that rivalry showed in the form of trash talking and hard hits.
Without the threat of coaches’ Monday morning discipline, the players engaged in several punishing hits in front of nearly 2,000 fans in a standing-room only crowd at Odessa.
The bruises figure to stick around a bit longer than they did in the past.
“It’s been 16 or 17 years since I put on pads, so the first couple of plays, you forget what it’s like, but then you’re back in game mode,” said Derek Bell, an 1997 Oak Grovegraduate. “And then everybody starts hitting. There were a lot of them. Some of them hurt a little more than they used to.”
The game began Saturday with a Life Flight helicopter landing at midfield. Michael Lockhart, a 1996 Odessa graduate, emerged from the helicopter to present the game ball.
Former cheerleaders from both schools led crowd chants on the sidelines. The event, organized by Alumni Football USA, drew nearly $10,000 in revenue for the two schools combined, a spokesperson for the organization said.
It was the first of its kind the organization has arranged in Missouri. It won’t be the last.
The two schools plan for a rematch next year at Oak Grove. Though maybe not all will be joining.
“This,” said Brad Feeler, a 1988 Odessa graduate, as he removed his pads. “This is my retirement.”