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Published: Tuesday, 5/4/2010

Football coach searching for wins as he fights illness

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Coach Dave Calabrese, who has  amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, runs a practice of his Northwest Ohio Knights. The team will play a fund-raiser Saturday.
Coach Dave Calabrese, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, runs a practice of his Northwest Ohio Knights. The team will play a fund-raiser Saturday.
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A passion for football continues to bolster the spirits of Maumee coach Dave Calabrese as he battles a debilitating illness.

Calabrese coaches a local semipro football team called the Northwest Ohio Knights. Calabrese, a 1991 Maumee graduate, played minor league football for 14 years after high school.

But in the fall of 2008, Calabrese, 37, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. About 30,000 Americans are affected by the aliment called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. There isn't a cure for the disease that makes it difficult to talk, walk, eat, and breathe.

On Saturday, the second annual Dave Calabrese Football Benefit Game will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Lucas County Recreation Center. Proceeds go to finding a cure for ALS, including the efforts of the national organization Augie's Quest.

Calabrese founded the Northwest Knights in 2006 along with his wife, Carey. Calabrese is owner, coach, and defensive coordinator of the team that consists mostly of players from northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

"I'm still out there," Calabrese said. "I'll be out there as long as I can. This is all I got right now along with my family. I can't do much at all."

Calabrese plans to be on the sidelines when his Knights take on the Detroit Diesels Saturday. The Knights won the Great Lakes Football League championship in 2008, while the Diesels won it last season.

Detroit went undefeated (12-0) in 2009, while the Knights posted a 9-4 record.

A tailgating event will start at noon at the Lucas County Rec Center on Key Street in Maumee.

"It's a family friendly event," Calabrese said. "We'll have a moonwalk for kids and clowns and face painting."

The event also will include a beer tent and a car show.

The coach also thinks his team will be fun to watch. The Knights have merged with another area semipro team, the Northwest Ohio Raiders. The organization, which is based in Clyde, had only 15 players this season. Owners Tommy and Tiffany Turner decided to join the Knights, an organization that has posted a 23-12 record in three seasons.

Former University of Toledo running back Richard Davis will be the team's marquee player this season, Calabrese said. Veterans Isaac Saxby and Brandon Simmons also will be back.

"We have players from Toledo, Oak Harbor, Michigan, and even Cleveland and Kentucky," Calabrese said. "People have heard about our reputation."

Contact Mark Monroe at:

mmonroe@theblade.com

or 419-724-6354.



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