After nearly 30 years, the Ampipe Bulldogs evened the score against the rival Walnut Heights Knights on the football field.
Johnstown High School edged Westmont Hilltop 20-17 on Friday night in front of 4,500 fans who crammed into Trojan Stadium as part of a reunion commemorating the motion picture “All the Right Moves.”
There even was a second-half downpour and a fumbled snap, just like in the movie. But this time, Ampipe won by three points instead of losing by two.
“It was big stepping in here, especially since Tom Cruise was in this film,” said Johnstown junior quarterback Deion Moore, who wore a gold-and-black No. 5 Ampipe jersey and was one of the game’s stars. “We felt it was our duty since Ampipe lost last time. We wanted to come through and get this win.”
The 20th Century Fox movie starred Tom Cruise, Lea Thompson and Craig T. Nelson. It was filmed in Johnstown in 1983 and featured dozens of local football players, coaches, cheerleaders, band members and students. More than 10,000 Johnstown residents packed Point Stadium nearly 30 years ago during filming of the big game between Ampipe and Walnut Heights.
On Friday, Johnstown’s players wore the gold Ampipe uniforms with black numbers instead of the Trojans’ traditional Columbia blue and black. Westmont sported white jerseys with red numbers in tribute to Walnut Heights.
Proceeds from commemorative T-shirt sales raised money for two scholarships, one for a player from each team.
As fans filled the stadium’s silver bleacher seats, the “All the Right Moves” sound track played. A Johnstown staffer walked the sideline with Piper, a white and brown bulldog. In the movie the team’s mascot, a bulldog, appears in a pep rally prior to the big game.
As game time neared, a recorded message from “All the Right Moves” producer Steven Deutsch was played. Deutsch spoke about the city’s contributions to the production. He praised the coaches and athletes who trained for the film.
Deutsch said he has been told the film “was the most realistic football movie.”
Deutsch joked that he hoped the weather would be better than it was for the original Ampipe-Walnut Heights game. The Johnstown Fire Department used hoses to create an artificial downpour for that scene in April 1983.
“It’s a great feeling for all of us that we created a film and experience 30 years ago that you’re remembering so fondly,” Deutsch said.
Thompson, who played Cruise’s girlfriend, Lisa, in the movie, recorded a video greeting that was posted on the Internet Friday and shown during the Johnstown pep rally. She also Tweeted a photograph of her and Cruise from the movie set.
Nelson, who is working on his NBC series “Parenthood,” sent a statement that was read prior to the game.
Cruise’s representatives said the actor was working and unavailable.
“This was so huge you don’t want to take the exuberance out of the kids,” Johnstown coach Tony Penna Jr. said. “We really didn’t try to fight that stuff. It ended up becoming a lot bigger than even we thought. You just had to embrace it. The community was excited. The school was excited, and they’re kids.”
Former Aliquippa football coach Don Yannessa made the ceremonial coin toss. Yannessa, a member of the PSFCA Hall of Fame, served as technical director for the football scenes in the movie and played the role of the Walnut Heights coach.
Like Ampipe in the movie, Johnstown fell behind in the game, trailing 17-6 before mounting a second-half comeback.
Unlike the film, Johnstown – and Ampipe – held on to win.
“We got one back for coach Nickerson,” Penna said, referring to Nelson’s character, coach Vern Nickerson, whose play-calling cost Ampipe the game against Walnut Heights. “The rain and everything, there was a whole lot of symbolism. We even fumbled a snap. I said, ‘This is starting to sound like the movie.’”
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