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Cheerleaders get their chance to shine at Lions All-Star Classic

By Ashely Ziomek

The Kensington Lions Club held their 43rd annual All-Star High School Football Classic Wednesday night at Williamsville South High School, adding a twist to this year’s roster.

Cheerleaders.

The Lions Club became the official sponsor and organizer of the game in 1976, under the influence of Lions Club member Milt Dickerson. Previous sponsors of the game introduced the idea to Dickerson, and with the support of the Lions Club, the All-Star game has grown dramatically in interest and highlight.

“The point of the game is to give high school athletes a final chance to play and to bring everyone together,” said Jessica Haskill, varsity cheerleading coach at Tonawanda High School.

Months before this year’s game Haskill had her sights set.

Her goal was to gain support from Section VI and the Lions Club to introduce cheerleading into this 43rd game. She quickly gained support from the two parties and began searching for volunteer coaches, organizing practices and taking cheerleader nominations.

In order to highlight those who went above and beyond throughout regular season, high school coaches were asked to nominate graduating seniors for one last chance to cheer at a game.

Just like the football players, the nominated cheerleaders were separated in North and South squads.

The North team and was coached by Haskill (Tonawanda) and Jena Zubricky (Starpoint), while the South team was coached by Brittnee Nicoloff (Lancaster).

“I feel incredibly honored that my coach chose me to cheer one last time and represent my school,” said Rachel Dimitroff, a Williamsville North graduate.

A cheerleader of ten years, Erica Taft understands the responsibility that comes with the new role of her sport at the All-Star game.

“It’s awesome, we’re making history and making a statement,” said Taft, a graduate of Amherst. “Nerves come with everything.”

Williamsville East graduate Tracey Ly discussed the fun ideas the North squad was able to incorporate into their routine for the Classic, something not easy to do in a regular competition season.

“We were guided and we got to bounce ideas off of each other, we were able to add a lot of our own flare, and we all became really close through the whole thing,” Ly said.

With the utmost thanks to the Lions Club for taking this step with the local cheerleading programs, Haskill discussed the joy and anticipation to watch this new tradition grow.

“This game will get bigger and better every year, and I cannot wait to watch that growth,” Haskill said.

Coaches and athletes sent a warm thank you to the Lions Club for their acceptance and enthusiasm towards adding cheerleaders to the Classic game.

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