Of course participation in an all-star game is considered a privilege and an honor.
That's part of what makes former Rossford coach Tom Ferguson, who retired three years ago, look forward to returning to the sidelines as coach of the Black squad in the 16th Annual Regional All-Star Football Game tomorrow night at 7 at Perrysburg Junior High.
"It's like a rebirth," said Ferguson, who's making his third appearance as a coach in the annual contest that gives recent graduates a chance to represent their high schools one final time before heading off to college.
Rogers coach Rick Rios, who is making his second appearance as a coach in the game, heads the Gold squad.
Both make it clear they're playing to win.
"It means a lot to these kids and they don't want to go out losing," Ferguson said. "We don't want to step on the field and lose."
Rios, who made it known that he prevailed in his previous experience coaching in this game, feels the same way.
"It always matters, that's why we keep the score," he said.
Irish on a mission: Central Catholic graduate Ryan Brown and four of his former Irish teammates playing on the Black squad are still receiving pats on the back and congratulatory remarks seven months after claiming the Division I state championship.
Brown, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound fullback/linebacker, still savors the state title.
"I still think about it a lot actually," he said. "I understand I won a state title, but I don't quite get how significant it is to win it. People tell me I'll realize what we did years from now looking back on it."
Brown, Neil Mitchell, Lee Marquette, Anthony Oliver and Mike Starkey received their state championship rings earlier this year.
"But I wear it only on special occasions," Brown said. "I already know I won a state title, so I don't wear it because I don't want to lose it or anything."
Brown, who intends to walk-on at the University of Toledo, looks forward to closing out his high school experience playing in the all-star contest the way the Irish finished off the 2005 campaign.
"It's a pretty big deal to come out on top," he said. "First, I'm going to go out and have fun. Personally, I'm a competitor and I want to win.
"All five of us [from Central] know how to win and we want to carry it over to the rest of the team. I love winning and so do all the rest."
Brown, a three-year starter for the Irish, earned All-Blade honors last season. However, an anterior cruciate ligament tear in his left knee suffered in November proved to be a temporary setback for the tenacious tackler and blocker. He only missed one game during the Irish's run to the title, but he believes playing at less than 100 percent healthy may have affected scholarship opportunities.
"I was talking to a few colleges and after I got hurt I never heard from them anymore," he said. "Toledo was the only one that kept in contact."
This game is the first contest he's played in since having surgery and undergoing rehab.
"This is a test for me to see if I'm ready," Brown said.
Just kickin' it: Southview graduate Kevin Lanning, who will attend the University of Dayton, is one of three kickers on the Black team, along with Defiance's Corey Stork and Archbold's Zac Zimmerman, both of whom are headed to the University of Findlay.
Splitting the kicking duties in his final non-collegiate contest isn't an issue for Lanning, an All-Blade selection last fall after nailing 11 of 12 field goals and 25 of 26 extra points to lead the Cougars in scoring.
"Whatever coach has us do we'll do," Lanning said. "It's my last high school game and I'll get to kick off at the 40-yard line and not the 35."
Zimmerman and Stork are also looking forward to the all-star game and working together as teammates at Findlay even though they'll compete with each other for time on the field.
"When it's time for competition I just do it," Stork said.
"I'm friends all the time," Zimmerman said. "Whoever is better is going to play."
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