Bishop Gallagher’s football alumni keep school spirit alive

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published June 14, 2017

 For almost 40 years, the Bishop Gallagher football team played in the Catholic League, which included a trip to the state finals played at the Pontiac Silverdome. The 1992 team will be honored at the team reunion this year on Wednesday, June 14.

For almost 40 years, the Bishop Gallagher football team played in the Catholic League, which included a trip to the state finals played at the Pontiac Silverdome. The 1992 team will be honored at the team reunion this year on Wednesday, June 14.

Photo provided by Jack Masserang

HARPER WOODS — Each year, alumni of the Harper Woods Bishop Gallagher High School football team gather together to share their passion for the school, despite the school having closed in 2001.

The former football players use the opportunity to stay in touch, reminisce and raise money for good causes.

“Bishop Gallagher was located in Harper Woods from the early ’60s until it closed in 2001,” said event co-organizer Tom Michalski. “It was a Catholic high school originally formed by the Queen of Peace, St. Matthew and St. Philomena parishes. We competed in the Catholic League with varying success for years. It was originally a Class D school but grew to a Class A and declined to a Class D school again before it was shut down for declining enrollment.”

The reunion will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 14, at Starr Detroit Academy, 19360 Harper Ave. in Harper Woods — the former site of the high school.  The event is geared toward those involved with the high school’s football program, but could potentially expand to other alumni in future reunions. 

“We have a group called Bishop Gallagher Football Alumni, and it’s been going for three or four years now, and this is our third annual reunion of football players, and I sit on the committee,” said Michalski. “Right now, we’re a football team alumni, and we may expand in the future, but now we’re focused on people involved in the football program.”

To RSVP for the event or to find more information, alumni can visit www.gallagherfootballalumni.com.

The reunion was spearheaded by a few passionate former team members and has expanded to include dozens of Bishop Gallagher graduates.

“It started off as just a luncheon with about eight or nine people at Lear Corp., where the CEO (Matt Simoncini) is a former Gallagher football player,” explained Jack Masserang, one of the team’s former coaches. “The next year, my brother, who coached with us for several years, wanted to come, and we had about 25 people. Then after that, we wanted to get everyone together, and we were able to make a connection with Starr Academy and arrange for us to have it in the building.”

The common thread that pulls all those who attend the event together is the coaching staff, which was full of individuals who spent decades mentoring players at the school.

“George Sahadi as the head coach, I was with him for all 33 years, my brother Tom was with us for 30 years, and we had George Flaviani, Paul Skowronski and Don Hunt who all coached for 20 years,” said Masserang. “The people we coached all had the same coaches, so someone who graduated 35 years ago would have had the same coaches as those who graduated right before the school closed, so it ties us all together.”

The alumni also will be recognizing some of the past accomplishments among their numbers to keep the legacy of their achievements alive.

“One of the things is, we will be inducting 16 new members into the hall of fame,” said Masserang. “We’ll also be honoring the 1992 team, which went to the state finals and lost in double overtime. The next afternoon, we’ll have a luncheon and then take the whole 1992 team to the Tigers game.”

Additionally, several Bishop Gallagher alumni use the reunion as a means to raise funds for those in need. The efforts only began last year and the organizers are hoping to grow this aspect of the reunion as more graduates join them.

“Part of our mission is to support charities,” said Michalski. “Last year we supported Starr Academy, and the year before we supported Chad Tough, which provides money for research into rare brain cancers in children.”

“Our mission is we are trying to help some people. We’re starting by sponsoring a former Gallagher football player to help his kid go to school,” said Masserang. “We are still deciding where we go from there, but it will be helping others. These efforts will be called the George Sahadi Award after the old coach. It’s amazing that even though the school closed, these men want to come back and want to help. I think it’s terrific.”