EVERETT — Every year they return a little slower. Perhaps with a little less hair, and maybe, Christofer Lekas said, with a few extra pounds.
But a group of 50-somethings make like they’re still in their 20s during an annual post-Thanksgiving touch football game.
For the 25th consecutive year, the pals gathered Saturday for the friendly match. This year it was at Cascade High School.
Attendance usually hovers around 10 to 15 people and has been growing as the original crew’s kids have started to play.
“I am shocked this thing still goes on,” Lekas said. He’s been showing up since the first game in 1995.
He and his brother, Greg, moved up from Portland and started playing with their cousin, Steve Corotas, and some other Cascade High School alumni.
Back then, they played at Meadowdale High School in Lynnwood.
“Back before we were all married,” said Kevin Sullivan, a part of the Cascade crew. “We were much faster then. We played three-, four-hour marathon games.”
They’ve got a collection of stories from those days — some they can share, some they better not, Lekas said with a chuckle.
The tradition has carried on through every weather condition imaginable. There’s been wind, rain and an hour-and-a-half game in the snow.
One particularly soggy year, they met under a covered area, broke out some beer, chatted and headed home. But they always show up.
Through military deployments, marriages and kids, the event has kept the group tight through the years.
Though the guys have mostly stayed within a few miles of each other, it’s one of the only events that gets them all together.
On Saturday, nine players came to a frosty field at Cascade High, where they shook out cold hands, shed layers of jackets and tossed the ball around.
“Best day ever,” Greg Lekas said as he dropped his bags and joined the warm-up.
These days, they play on an abbreviated field, and “you won’t see any spectacular running,” Chris Lekas said.
They’ll likely feel the game well into the next week, Kevin Sullivan said. His 12-year-old son, Logan, joined in for the first time this year.
The games don’t always go smoothly. In 2013, a player severely injured his knee. Greg Lekas, then a newly minted chiropractor, took charge as doctor.
He played that role again this year when the game was cut short by a shoulder injury that landed one player in the hospital.
“We’re conserving our energy for next year,” Chris Lekas said.
The games usually turn into an all-day affair. They used to make for a sports bar. Now, as their families have gotten involved, the party continues at a bowling alley.
Lekas hopes the next generation will carry on the tradition.
“It’s a time when you get to remind yourself that you get to be around these core friends, and not everyone has that,” he said. “Twenty-five years of football and friendship in the books. God willing, next year will be 26.”
Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.