The death of Frankie Anthony Iannarelli has left community and family members in mourning. But Saturday’s football game in memory of him may have uplifted the spirits of his supporters.
On Sept. 29, the Northern Neck Rivermen made a tribute to Iannarelli, who recently died from cancer. In their final regular season game, the team and many supporters helped through sales of tickets, baked goods, raffles, donations and T-shirt sales at the newly built King George High School Athletics Field.
Rivermen Owner and Coach Dennis Cornwell was Iannarelli’s teammate on the Stafford High School Football Team.
“When I went to the hospital before he passed and he looked at me in the bed, he said to me that the wants his family and kids to be okay. And I told him that I would do whatever I can,” said Cornwell. “When he earned his wings, I just immediately started contacting people…and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“Frankie was a standup guy, made an honest living, has a great family, wonderful kids and wife, and anything we sacrificed to make this happen was well worth it,” Cornwell said. “The support was amazing.”
Supporters wore T-Shirts with Iannarelli’s high school jersey number 44 in memory of him.
Also in attendance were the Stafford High School cheerleaders, dance team members, supporters from the Fredericksburg area and even the state of Florida, where his father Frank Iannarelli resides.
“With the broken heart that I have and to see something like this put together, it’s beyond believing. I didn’t know my son touched so many lives and had so many friends,” said Frank Iannarelli. “For Dennis to put everyone together and do what he did tonight, it’s beyond imagination.”
Sheila Iannarelli, wife to Frankie, said she was grateful for all the support.
“My heart just cries for joy and I’m so happy that Frankie had so many friends that cared more than I knew,” said Sheila. “I was just blessed to have that man in my life and his journey will go on.”
Chris Iannarelli said he thanks coach Cornwell and the supporters for making the event a special occasion.
“After he set everything up, I was so blessed for everything that he did,” said Chris. “He did a hell of a job.”
Cornwell said this will become an annual event, and is thankful for the officials at King George and supporters for making the event a success.
The game ended with the Rivermen winning 32-13 and earning a playoff berth. In a strange twist, but the lights turned off automatically with less than a minute left in the football game.
“It was funny because I forgot about the time when the lights cut off. I thought to myself this is a way Frank is saying ‘the game is over, get out of here,’” Cornwell said. “And that was something he would probably do. It was great night.”
The amount of funds raised was not disclosed.
On Sept. 29, the Northern Neck Rivermen cruised to a their fifth win of the season and earned an automatic playoff berth after defeating the Virginia Steelers 32-12.
On the opening play of the game, quarterback Walt Covington connected with receiver Cliff Glover for a 53-yard reception, which eventually led to the Rivermen score. The touchdown came when Covington connected with Joshua Steele for a one-yard pass. Kicker Barrett Hollingsworth knocked down the extra point to the put the Rivermen up 7-0.
Virginia’s Todd Osborne and the Steelers struggled on their opening drive. On their own 11-yard line, Osborne threw an interception to Northern Neck’s TJ Ford, which led to another score for the Rivermen. Ford returned it for a touchdown. The extra point kicked by Hollingsworth put the Rivermen up 14-0 with 9:31.
A quick three-and-out for the Steelers gave the Rivermen back the ball pretty quickly.
With great field position and starting at the Steelers 39-yard line, Covington again connected with Steele for a six-yard touchdown pass. Hollingsworth extra point put the Rivermen up 21-0 to end the quarter.
The defense held the Steelers offense from scoring and one cornerback received an award for it.
With the ball on the Steelers 37-yard-line, Larry Catlett picked off Osborne to give the Rivermen back the ball on their own 44-yard line.
The Rivemen offense failed to score on the drive and so did the Steelers.
However on the next drive for the Rivermen, Virginia’s Avery Johnson picked off Covington for an 89-yard touchdown. The extra point by Greg Crooms cut the Rivermen lead to 14.
The Rivemen offense marched down the field with 2:41 left in the first half, but had to settle with a 38-yard field goal by Hollingsworth. At halftime, the Rivermen were ahead of the Steelers 24-7.
To start the third quarter, the Steelers amazed the Rivemen when Virginia’s Justin Duncan returned a kick for 77 yards. The run gave put the Steelers on the Rivermen’s 14-yard line. Three plays later, Osborne ran it in for a 11-yard touchdown to close the Rivemen lead. The extra point was no good leaving the score in favor of the Rivemen 24-13.
Neither team had successful drives to follow. But late in the third quarter, Johnson picked off another interception. Because he came out of the endzone, he put the Steelers on their own two-yard-line.
As a result, gave the Steelers’ offense limited space to maneuver. The Rivemen defense was credited with the safety thanks to efforts made by linebacker Sid Thompson.
With the 26-13 score in favor of the Rivermen, both defense’s held on.
But it was the Rivermen’s offense that would make the last strike to end the game. With the ball on the Steelers’ 31-yard line, Covington connected with Kamron Gray for touchdown. Hollingsworth’s extra point was no good to leave the game, 32-13 in favor of the Rivemen.
Head Coach Dennis Cornwell said he really enjoyed the new field at King George High School and hopes to have the Rivermen continue playing future games at that site.
Discussions are still ongoing with school officials.
Next game will be on Oct. 5 to play the New Jersey Broncos to end the season. Playoff details coming soon.