NEGAUNEE - F was the letter of the week for the students at the Negaunee Cooperative Preschool.
Fun, fire and football were some of the words the kids mentioned when teacher Doreen Bertucci asked them to say some words that start with F.
However, by the end of the day Friday, F stood for friends, which is what the little ones became to the football players who came to visit, one group at 10 a.m. for the morning class and the other at 1 p.m. for the afternoon group.
Annemarie Allerding, in stripes, runs after tagging Jyanna Grobar in a game of 'Duck Duck Goose' as the youngsters from the Negaunee Cooperative Preschool enjoy some play time with members of the Ishpeming and Negaunee high school football teams. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
Bringing in Ishpeming High football players to spend time with her students has become a tradition for Bertucci, who taught at a preschool in Ishpeming for years.
There was a twist this year: The players visiting the preschoolers came from both Ishpeming and Negaunee High School on the very day the teams would meet in a battle of the gridiron unbeatens.
It could not have worked out better, Bertucci said.
"This has been sweet, sweet, sweet," she said as her afternoon class spent time with their new high school friends. "The players from both schools have been wonderful."
The little ones, ages 3-5, were invited to wear shirts supporting the team of their choice, so some had on Green Bay Packer items and others Negaunee Miner garb.
After all, the school is in Negaunee.
Teacher Bertucci wore an Ishpeming Hematites jersey. After all, she is an IHS alumna. But she had another reason: One of the players visiting the class was her nephew, Seppi Bertucci, a senior end on the IHS varsity.
He was joined at the afternoon class by teammate Eric Kostreva.
Representing the Miners in the afternoon were varsity team members Adam Francis, Jeremy Bell, Andrew Katona and Nolan Bergstrom.
Seppi Bertucci brought some equipment to the classroom and the little girls and boys had the chance to try on his helmet and shoulder pads.
Teacher Bertucci asked the class how the players from the two schools were the same, with answers from the wee ones including "they like to play football," "they have a coach" and "they like to win."
Asked how the players were different, the response from one little one was "some are in blue and white and some are in blue and yellow."
Indeed. But as the preschool students warmed up to their older visitors, the differences faded away and everyone at some point was tagged to be "it" in a spirited game of "Duck, Duck, Goose."
How did the high schoolers react when asked by their coaches to visit the little kids?
"I thought it was cool," Miner Andrew Katona, a senior on the team.
"It was a good idea," said Seppi Bertucci, who was taught by his aunt back when he was a preschool student.
Laughter was the most common sound as the afternoon progressed. It might have been just a few hours before kickoff, but for at least part of the day, players from rival schools worked together to show a group of youngsters that everyone can get along.
"This really warmed my heart," Doreen Bertucci said. "All these players were great."
Attending the morning session were Hematites Brad Wootke, R.J. Poirier and Hunter Wirtanen along with Miners Brock Weaver, Tanner Uren, Dustin Goupille and Alex Dempsey.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is rprusi@miningjournal. net.