Shriners game returns to Gillette Stadium

Press release provided by the New England Patriots:

Gillette Stadium, the Aleppo Shriners and the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association announced today that Gillette Stadium will once again host the annual Shriners All-Star Football Game on Friday, June 17 at 7 p.m.

“We’re proud to be able to bring the Shriners All-Star Game back to Gillette Stadium for the second consecutive year,” said Robert Kraft, Chairman and CEO of The Kraft Group. “This is a special event and we feel fortunate to be a new part of the Shriners’ tradition. We hope to help Shriners Hospitals for Children raise a lot of money for a great cause and hope the experience of playing at Gillette Stadium makes the event memorable for everyone involved.”

The annual all-star football contest – the flagship fundraiser of the Aleppo Shriners – benefits the Shriners Hospital for Children, including the Boston and Springfield locations, and has raised $900,000 for the charity to date. Every year, Shriners Hospitals for Children provides care for thousands of children with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate, in a family-centered environment with no financial obligation to patients or their families. Money to operate the specialty hospitals comes from public endowments, wills and gifts, Shrine dues and fundraisers such as the Shriners All-Star Football Game.

The Massachusetts Shriners All-Star Game is supported by Aleppo Shriners’ 4,600 members, including the 14 Shrine Clubs located throughout eastern Massachusetts and the Shrine Center in Wilmington.

The 100 all-star football players invited to play in the game represent 73 Massachusetts high schools throughout eastern Massachusetts. In addition to the North-South matchup, 100 All-Star cheerleaders will perform during the game and the Shrine Uniformed Units will conduct a parade through Patriot Place.

Coaching the North Squad is Shawsheen Regional Technical High School’s head coach Al Costabile. Coach Costabile led his Shawsheen squad to the 2010 Division 4 MIAA Super Bowl for the school’s first Super Bowl appearance and championship since 1978. Coach Costabile was named one of the Boston Globe’s 2010 Coaches of the Year.

Heading up the South Squad is Jim Sullivan of Norwell High School who will retire from coaching after this year’s Shriners game. Under Coach Sullivan’s tenure, Norwell has won two Super Bowls, four South Shore League Championships and won the South Shore Leagues Team Sportsmanship Award 11 of the last 12 years. Coach Sullivan finishes his coaching career with a .600 winning percentage.

Also joining the cause will be 14 year NFL veteran, five-time Pro Bowler and part-time radio co-host Fred Smerlas. Smerlas, who graduated from Waltham High School where he was a star wrestler and football player, played with the Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots as a standout nose tackle. Smerlas has been named Honorary Game Chairman and will have the pleasure of watching his son Zack compete in the game. Zack Smerlas is a standout wrestler and football player at Lincoln-Sudbury High School and will head to Brown University in the fall.

Tickets for the Shriners All-Star Football Game go on sale on Monday, May 2, 2011. Fans can purchase tickets through the Aleppo Shriners (978-657-4202 ext. 20), at the Gillette Stadium Ticket Office, at any Ticketmaster outlet, by calling 800-745-3000, or at www.ticketmaster.com. Group sales will be available through Gillette Stadium by calling 508-549-0258.