Hudson -- The 9th Annual Hudson Challenger football game ended with the Special Olympics team scoring 86 points, and the seventh-grade Hudson Hawks football team leaving a zero on the scoreboard.

Before the game began Aug. 9, Chris Rightnour and Rich Piekarski presented Barbara Malson, along with Rick and Ellen Malson, a plaque in memory of Richard "Dick" Malson, who died July 10.

The plaque, which sports Mr. Malson's signature hat and the letters "RAM" for the business he owned, Ramco Specialties Inc. will be placed on the Hawks Nest concession stand at Scott Malson Field at Hudson Middle School where the Hawks play, according to Rightnour, president of Hudson Hawks Youth Football Association. The Scott Malson field was built in 2011 through the generous donations of Mr. Malson and his family in memory of his son Scott, who coached the Hawks football players.

The Hudson Hawks and Hudson community appreciate what Mr. Malson and his son Scott gave the Hawks program and the youth of Hudson, Rightnour said.

"Saturday was a very hard day not seeing Dick Malson in the stands," Rightnour said. "The Challenger game was the first game played on Malson Field, and Dick was there every year."

The Hudson Hawks Youth Football Association raised and donated $5,000 for the Hudson Special Olympics team to help with expenses when players attend sporting events throughout the year.

Hudson Middle School seventh-grader Lila Bishop sang the national anthem before the more than 700 in attendance, one of the biggest crowds for the annual event, according to event coordinator Mark Guadagni.

The game saw two rookies on the Special Olympics team, Genevieve Burke and Danny "Dax" O'Brien, who may have been the youngest players on the field, but whose smiles conveyed why the Challenger game has become so popular.

"This is one of the best events by far with some of the Special Olympics stars performing at a high level as well as some newer faces like Dax and Genevieve," Guadagni said.

The stands were packed and spectators lined the field to watch as 22 Special Olympics athletes teamed with 39 Hudson High School senior football players in a game against the seventh-grade Hudson Hawks.

Special Olympics cheerleaders Noreen Kern, Barbara Bell and Roxanne Fatemi joined cheerleaders from Hudson High School and the Hudson Hawks Association to celebrate the game plays while Hudson High School band members played a victory song for every touchdown and extra point scored. The band also performed at half time in a preview of this fall's football game highlights.

Special guest Kent State University mascot "Flash" posed for photographs with players and guests.

The Special Olympics players wore numbered jerseys and huge smiles as they enjoyed the game, Guadagni said.

"Generally, everyone feels this is one of the best events they attend all year," Guadagni said. "The opportunity to see these Special Olympics athletes enjoying the game of football puts a smile on everyone's face."

The two leaders of the Special Olympics team were David Spurlock and Mikey Havel, who selflessly cleared Hudson Hawk players out of the path so their teammates could run up the field unimpeded to score.

Speed was an asset for Special Olympians Nicholas Tomins, Joseph Korane, Nicholas Gosiewski, Michael Gosiewski, David Gurreri, Connor Hayslip, John Krzysik and Allison Sweress, who carried the football down the field in 80 degree heat.

Special Olympics football player Nina Ackerman ran so fast, she lost her hair ribbon from her ponytail.

Other players who helped lead the team to victory included Ben Cartwright, Adam Shaw, Mike Powell, Rhylie Ludwig, Chris Horton and Brennan Strobach.

The Challenger game is the Super Bowl when the Hawks compete with the Special Olympics athletes, Rightnour said.

"The Hawks look forward to this game every year," Rightnour said. "To be part of the smiles on so many faces gives such a great feeling to all of us. Giving back is something the Hawks organization takes pride in teaching to our players and cheerleaders."

Next year will be the 10th Annual Challenger Game, and volunteers are already working on how to make the event bigger and better.


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