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A corny competition will benefit Light’s foundation

Matt Light thanks students who built the boards for the event.

George Rizer for The Boston Globe

Matt Light thanks students who built the boards for the event.

Former New England Patriots lineman Matt Light recently stopped by Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School to autograph something very special to him: cornhole boards.

The boards were designed by students at the high school for Light’s “Cornhole Commotion” event at Gillette Stadium Saturday, the first of what he hopes might become an annual happening.

George Rizer for the Boston Globe

Sophomores Samantha Allen, Elisha Alvarado, and Jose Escalera check dimensions before attaching to their bases.

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Thanks to Light, the backyard game that has taken the Midwest by storm is coming to Foxborough, and hundreds of cornhole enthusiasts will be flocking to the Patriots’ home field to compete for cornhole supremacy.

“It should be some stiff competition,” said Light, 34, a self-described die-hard cornhole fan who grew up playing the game.

The double-elimination tournament, which will be held outside on the stadium grounds, will feature 128 teams, made up of two players each. The pairs will face off against each other, taking turns tossing 1-pound bags at slanted wooden boards. If the bag hits the board and stays there, it’s worth 1 point (in cornhole parlance, that’s known as a “woody”). If the bag goes through the hole (known as a “cornhole”), it’s 3 points. Eight teams will proceed to the championship round.

Light says he wants to raise awareness of the pastime, popular in his home state of Ohio, and hopes the event in Foxborough will kick-start a cornhole movement in New England.

“Every time I go home, I see cornhole tournaments on every corner . . . at churches, at clubs,” he said. “Everyone is doing it.”

Light, who retired in 2012, has become known for hosting and sponsoring unique events, such as clay-shooting events with NFL stars, wild turkey hunts for kids, and the annual Ghosts N’ Goblins 5K Trail Run that’s held in his hometown of Greenville, Ohio. When he was brainstorming about holding his next charity event, he set his sights on a cornhole tournament. “It seemed like a natural thing,” he said.

The popularity of cornhole — also known as beanbag toss, corn toss, or baggo — has already spread from the Midwest, with tournaments being held from New Jersey to Florida, and over the past decade, several organizations have been established to promote it. The American Cornhole Association, founded in Cincinnati in 2003, is the oldest of the bunch, and claims to have 30,000

Susie Light

Retired New England Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light getting ready to host the first annual cornhole tournament at Gillette Stadium on June 1.

registered members (who do not pay dues). The Milford, Ohio-based American Cornhole Organization was established in 2005 and acts as the governing body of the sport (membership costs $20). The Cornhole Players Association is another Ohio-based organization that was formed in 2011 to support the growth of the game.

In Massachusetts, cornhole enthusiasts turn to websites like www.BostonCornhole.com to find competitions in the New England area, and the occasional matches that are held at tailgating parties, bars, and at charity fund-raisers. Up to 256 cornholers from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and possibly Florida are expected to attend Light’s Cornhole Commotion tournament, making it one of the biggest cornhole events in this area to date. Teams will play at the Dana-Farber Field House, and the championship round will be held outside on the stadium grounds. Teams can participate by paying $100 and registering online at www.mattlightfoundation.org.

Patriot Pro Bowler Logan Mankins is among those registered to play. He’ll be joined by fellow Patriots Zoltan Mesko and Ryan Wendell.

Spectators are encouraged to attend. There will be music and food, and children can play games in the FunFest Kid Zone, bounce on Patriots inflatables, use the dunk tank, and win autographs and other prizes. Adults can sample foods from different restaurants, and those over 21 can sip a beer at the Cornhole Cantina.

Proceeds from the event will benefit The Light Foundation, the nonprofit founded by Light that supports scholarships and recreational programs for youth.

Students from the Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School have been doing their part to prepare for Cornhole Commotion. The school, located in Easton, enrolls students from Brockton, East Bridgewater, Easton, Foxborough, Mansfield, Norton, Sharon, Stoughton, and West Bridgewater — some of whom plan to attend and help out at the tournament.

Superintendent Luis Lopes credited Southeastern Regional School District School Committee member Stephen Udden with getting the school involved with Light’s foundation. When asked whether students could craft custom cornhole boards for the event, “we jumped right in and said, ‘absolutely,’ ” said Lopes. “It was a great community project and a lot of fun.”

A dozen students designed and built five sets of cornhole boards. Cabinet-making students handled the carpentry work, while collision repair students did the painting and finishing work, Lopes said.

“They’re all a little different, which is nice,” said Lopes.

Light then stopped by the school on May 15 to autograph the boards, which will be used and auctioned off at the Cornhole Commotion.

“Matt was such a great guy,” said Lopes. “He took time to spend with the kids and thanked them. It was a wonderful event. And he invited the kids down there to help.”

Lopes said students have enjoyed testing out the boards, and since Light’s visit, cornhole is taking off at the school.

“We’re actually making an extra set [of boards] to be used by students during lunch, as an activity,” said Lopes.

Light, too, has been pitching his share of bags lately. In a recent telephone interview, Light said he has been practicing in preparation for the tournament. “I’ll wake up at 3 a.m. and throw a few . . . in the relentless pursuit of perfection,” he said.

What’s the secret of his success?

“The way I grab the corn bag,” said Light. “I wouldn’t say it’s revolutionary, but it’s definitely cutting-edge.”

Cornhole Commotion will take place June 1 from noon to 6 p.m. at Gillette Stadium. Admission is $5 for adults and $20 per family.

Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.
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