By John D'Abruzzo
No matter what weather is predicted, Thunder will be in the forecast this summer for Lawrence County.
After months of controversy surrounding semi-professional football coming to this area, the New Castle Thunder officially introduced its front office personnel, coaching staff and players to the public yesterday at the Neshannock High School football stadium.
Owner and general manager Anthony Razzano, who stepped in after the New Castle Knights prematurely disbanded, believes this organization can greatly benefit the surrounding communities of Lawrence County. Through his organization, the Anthony Razzano Foundation, which helps those who have overcome adversities, Razzano hopes his franchise will be able to work hand-in-hand with the community.
“The New Castle Thunder has made an agreement with the Anthony Razzano Foundation to play amateur football games to raise money for the foundation,” Razzano said. “There’s a 90-10 split, and as such, we looked for a venue that we could hold our fundraising activity.
“We are proponents of courage, and we are going to spread courage across this community in an effort to restore the New Castle area to the place it deserves to be. Hopefully, we are going to be a cog in the wheel in restoring this community to some state of economic prosperity.”
Razzano even began yesterday’s press conference by awarding New Castle High senior Hillary Marsella with a scholarship for $2,000, which will be paid in increments of $500 to the University of Pittsburgh.
“The other reason for formulating the New Castle Thunder is because our area of Lawrence County is in great need of economical development,” Razzano said. “Our schedule has five home games, and each team in the league consists of a following of its own right. Each team will bring to the area probably 300-500 people, who will not only come to frequent the game and raise money for the organization, but they’re also going to raise economic profits for the community.”
The newest addition to the North American Football League, the New Castle Thunder will kick off their inaugural season against the Pittsburgh Colts at 7 p.m. June 24 at Canon-McMillan High School in Washington, Pa.
The North American Football League is the premier minor football league in America representing 144 teams. The Thunder will join the Grass Roots Division, which consists of the Pittsburgh Colts, Western Pa. Warhawks, Ohio Invaders, Ohio Cardinals and the Columbus Fire.
The following Saturday the Thunder are tentatively scheduled to host the Eastlake Vikings at Neshannock High School, where the team will play five to six home games this season.
“I have been a diehard football fan, even though I don’t know anything about the game,” Neshannock superintendent Dr. Mary Todora said. “I get depressed at Super Bowl Sunday because football season is over. I love the game, and I think this is a great opportunity for our school to get involved.”
The Thunder will be coached by Razzano’s uncle Rick, who also will serve as the team’s director of football operations. A standout at New Castle High, Rick went on to play collegiately at Virginia Tech before playing professional for the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League and the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL.
“It’s a great privilege to be a part of this organization,” Rick said. “I really appreciate the opportunity the community has given me. For me, it’s about giving back and coming home. I was raised here and I owe a lot to this area. Who I am today is in large part of the people who were around me growing up.”
FOR ANOTHER STORY ON THE THUNDER AND A LOOK AT THE ROSTER, GO TO THE SPORTS SECTION AT THE BOTTOM OF THE HOMEPAGE.