The Drive Out Cancer Challenge began as a game between the Cony and Gardiner field hockey teams five years ago and blossomed into a series of games between sports teams at the rival high schools — all to raise awareness of the disease and benefit the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care in Augusta.

This year, the challenge is reverting back to its roots with just the field hockey teams playing for the cause. The events were previously held in preseason, but dropped for a couple of reasons, the first being that the annual football game is now played in the regular season since Cony has dropped to Class B. Games between the boys and girls soccer teams were difficult to coordinate because of preseason schedules and this year Gardiner has no cross country team.

The field hockey teams will meet at Cony High School at 10 a.m. Saturday and retain the activities that have made the event a popular success. That includes honorary captains who have had cancer or their family members and a trip to the Harold Alfond Center by captains from both teams.

“This has become a special annual tradition,” Cony coach Holly Daigle said of the tour of the cancer facility. “The girls get an up-close look at this beautiful facility and learn more about the treatment, care and services patients and their family receive as well as the impact cancer has on our community.”

The honorary captains from Gardiner are cancer survivors RayeAnne DeSoto (Gardiner class of 1985) and Randy Thibeau (Gardiner class of 1981). DeSoto’s daughter Mari played on the 2010 state championship team at Gardiner while her daughter Brianna is a current member of the field hockey team. Thibeau has been involved in Gardiner field hockey for the past 10 years with his daughters, Shelby, Hayley and Kelsi.

Cony will be represented by Peggy Cummings and her sons Brandon and Eric in memory of their husband and father Gary Cummings (Cony class of 1971) who passed away from the disease 10 years ago this December.

In the past, the events have raised nearly $20,000 among all the teams but goals have been scaled back. Both field hockey teams have been raising money by asking local businesses for donations. All the money raised from concession sales, raffles and 50/50 drawings will go to the Alfond Cancer Center.

“It’s not quite as large as it has been,” Gardiner coach Moe McNally said, “but the thought is the same.”

The game itself should be a competitive one. Gardiner has dominated the series but the Rams have a solid team this season and were 3-1-0 entering Wednesday’s game against Mt. Blue. The Tigers are 4-2-0 in Class B going into today’s game against Brewer.

“We might have the edge in wins, but it’s competitive every year,” McNally said.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]