The Badger Game is returning to its roots.
Old Forge will be at Wyoming Area Friday night in a non-league boys basketball opener that will serve as the Anthony Badger Marseco Memorial Game.
The Blue Devils and Warriors have opened the season against each other with the Badger Game every year since 1995, when the game was started following Marseco's death earlier that year in a motorcycle accident.
For 12 seasons through last year, the game also functioned as part of the Marseco Memorial Tournament, bringing four boys and four girls teams together for the start of the season in Old Forge.
Pittston Area opted out of the tournament this season, leading to the decision to go back to simply a memorial game to start the season.
The contest honors Marseco, a member of the 1992 Old Forge state championship baseball team and state quarterfinalist basketball team who went on to coach in the Wyoming Area School District.
Old Forge coach Al Semenza said that part of honoring Marseco's memory is an emphasis on team play.
One of the things we did because of his thinking – he was never a guy who looked for awards – there is no MVP and no award other than the Badger Trophy which goes to the winning team to hold for one year, Semenza said.
Semenza, who coached Marseco in high school, spent two seasons at Wyoming Area before returning to coach the Blue Devils. It was during that time that Marseco began coaching at Wyoming Area, first working with elementary school students then spending a season as junior high coach.
Both coaches indicated a commitment to keeping the game, which is being held for the 18th time, intact as a season opener.
The Badger Game is always going to be our first game, second-year Wyoming Area coach Al Brogna said.
Semenza said the game will return to its rotation between the two schools, beginning with this year's contest at Wyoming Area.
Old Forge returns leading scorer Brian Tomasetti and another full-time starter, Jake Manetti. The Blue Devils also have part-time starters Brenden Wahl and Jimmie Aversa back from a team that went 9-16, finished second in District 2 Class A and won a preliminary-round state tournament game.
Wyoming Area returns starters Bart Chupka, the second-leading scorer, and Mike Carey along with part-time starter Jordan Zezza from a team that struggled through a 2-20 season.
Old Forge, an A team, plays in the Lackawanna Conference Division 3.
Wyoming Area, AA, plays in the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 2.
The regular seasons begin after the New Year.