Although it’s an exhibition game, the players and coaches in Friday night’s high school all-star football game in Perrysburg are in it to win.
Former Rossford coach Tom Ferguson said the players in the annual Northwest Ohio Regional All-Star Football Game want to walk off the field a winner.
“We’ve spent this time in this heat all week with the goal to win this ball game,” Ferguson said. “It’s been like walking in a swamp. But we coach the best we can because we want to come out on top in the end.”
The recently graduated seniors from have been preparing since Sunday for the contest at Steinecker Stadium. The event run by the Perrysburg athletic boosters club is in its 23rd season.
The players are split into Black and Gold teams. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Perrysburg Junior High School. Tickets are $6.
Ferguson is coaching in the event for the 10th time, seven as a retired coach. Ferguson heads up the Black team along with a staff of retired coaches. He said they enjoy working with “quality athletes.”
“They are nominated because they are the better players from their teams and they are some of the best athletes in all of northwest Ohio,” he said. “They are committed and have knowledge about the game.”
Jacob Hankish, an offensive lineman from Lake, will play with former foes. Hankish said the game also has afforded him a chance to play with Lake teammate Ben Swartz, a wide receiver and defensive back, a final time.
Hankish said the week of practice also was helping him get back into game shape. The 6-foot-1 and 250-pound lineman will play at Heidelberg University.
“This will help sharpen up the skills and knock off some of the rust,” he said.
Some others will go on to play in college in Division II or III.
“This helps them get mentally and physically prepared," Ferguson said.
Members of his staff include former Archbold coach John Downey, Northview’s Eric Keller, and Anthony Wayne’s Steve Wilwohl.
“It’s a great bunch of coaches,” Ferguson said. “About 95 percent of our coaches have been with me for the last five or six years. That makes it easier. We have that continuity.”
Ferguson said he has developed a friendly rivalry with former Toledo Christian coach John Miller, who has coached the Gold team for the last two seasons. Miller beat Ferguson’s Black team in 2011, but Ferguson avenged that loss with a 17-7 win last season.
“This is the rubber match,” Ferguson said, chuckling. “I coached him at Rossford so he wants to beat the old coach. We have a lot of fun with it.”
Ferguson said the players have handled the hot weather conditions well in practices. With just eight hours of total practice time, the offensive and defensive schemes are fairly simple.
“It’s very vanilla. But you’d be surprised how much the kids pick up so quickly,” he said.