Nearly 71,000 fans gathered on the lakeshore in 1946 to watch Cathedral Latin defeat Holy Name 35-6. It was the largest high school football crowd in Ohio history. But for St. Edward coach Rick Finotti, it's also family lore. His grandfather, Bill Belanich, was on the winning Lions' coaching staff.
"I've heard all the stories about the charity-game legends, and to be involved is overwhelming," Finotti says. "Cleveland has always been all about football."
The annual charity game was first played at old Cleveland Stadium in 1931. After a doubleheader format was tried in 1970-71, the charity series went dormant until 2005. The doubleheader returned with it. This year, Mentor plays Lakewood St. Edward at 3 p.m., and 10-time state champion Cleveland St. Ignatius faces off against Lake Catholic at 7 p.m. The fearsome foursome went a combined 33-13 in 2009.
"It's the most potent lineup assembled since the charity series resumed," says Tim Fitzpatrick of Home Team Marketing, which is co-sponsoring the event with the Browns. "The four coaches' combined winning percentage is over .700. The teams have 64 playoff appearances, 19 in the state finals, and 13 championships."