To the editor: I would like to thank Coach Carm DeFrancesco, his entire staff, the football boosters, Red Tornado Supper Club and all the fans for "adopting" my son Michael Gilger into the great Mount Carmel Area football program.

You are to be commended for treating Michael and the other players from Lourdes with great respect and fairness during the past three years.

As a Lourdes graduate, former coach and lifelong Shamokinite, it wasn't easy becoming a Red Tornado fan, but you have made that transition for me very smooth.

Having covered Mount Carmel Area football games during my 30 years as a staff writer for The News-Item, I always admired the program. But until Michael began playing for the Big Red his sophomore year, I didn't experience first hand how much their fans live and die with the success or failure of the football team. To say Mount Carmel Area fans have become spoiled with the team's great success would certainly be an understatement. But being a fan of the New York Yankees, Notre Dame and Dallas Cowboys for 47 years, I understand their sentiments about winning and wouldn't want it any other way.

Michael was fortunate to be involved with the program's 800th victory, the christening of a new fieldhouse and many big regular season and playoff victories. He and his teammates, who also endured several tough losses over the past three seasons, really supported each other in victory and defeat, which is the true meaning of a team.

My son, who hates to lose in anything, sometimes allowed his emotions to get the best of him, but never backed down from a challenge. I know it wasn't easy for him to live in Shamokin, attend Lourdes, play football for Mount Carmel Area and get heckled about dating a wonderful young lady and athlete (Kirstin Blass) from Southern Columbia Area School District, but he adjusted well and made us all proud.

On behalf of my wife, Paula, our two older sons, Mark Jr. and Matthew, and the entire Gilger and Polifka families, I want to say it was an honor for Michael to play for and serve as a captain of the winningest high school football program in the state that truly lives by its motto of pride, excellence and tradition.

Forever grateful.

Mark C. Gilger Sr.