Along with hot and muggy evenings occuring in mid-July, the annual Regional All-Star Football Game organized by Perrysburg athletic boosters has developed into a mid-summer tradition in northwest Ohio.
When the Black and Gold squads meet on Friday at Whitmer it will serve as the 18th consecutive summer for the game involving recent high school graduates playing a final time in their high school helmets.
"I think it's a reflection of how important football is in this part of the state," said Ohio State University tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator John Peterson. "It's a reflection of how you can go and get [players] in the middle of July to play. I don't know if there are any other all-star games going on at this date, which just says there is a passion for these kids to want to still play."
Peterson came up yesterday from Columbus to speak with the roughly 80-plus players making up the two teams prior to the evening's two-hour practice session.
Peterson, who is heading into his fifth season on Jim Tressel's coaching staff, shared some of his experiences coming out of Middletown High as a prep standout heading to Ohio State. He offered life lessons to the group, some of whom will play in college. He also spoke about how the Buckeyes football team, regarded as one of the nation's top college programs, sets goals annually and prepares to contend for the Big Ten and national titles.
"I've been part of Ohio State for 12-plus years in some capacity and I tell people that's not the real world either," he said. "There's not many places in the country that have opportunities and things of that sort like Ohio State.
"The thing that I've learned or been exposed to from being in Tressel's regime is the ability to elevate yourself in all aspects of your life. It's an ability to not only stretch yourself from a football coaching standpoint, but the ability to elevate everything you do in your life."
Fostoria St. Wendelin graduate Levi Smith took heed to what the OSU assistant said during his speech that lasted about 30 minutes.
"I thought he shared a lot of good thoughts about surrounding yourself with guys who are doing the right things and not getting yourself in trouble," said Smith, a 6-foot-2, 180-pounder who is planning to play wide receiver and free safety at Defiance College in the fall.
Woodward graduate Antonio Dunbar, who plans to continue his playing career at Tiffin University, said Peterson's speech left him encouraged about his college plans.
For the second year in a row the game will be held at a site other than Perrysburg's Steinecker Stadium due to on-going construction at Perrysburg Middle School. The school's parking lot is being resurfaced.
Despite not having access to the Yellow Jackets' home field, there has never been any thought of not holding the game that nets roughly $6,000 a year to help with funding the Yellow Jackets' athletic programs.
Perrysburg athletic director Ray Pohlman, who has been around for all 18 of the games, expects the contest to return to Steinecker Stadium next summer. He he is optimistic about another good turnout and showing at this year's game at Whitmer.
"It was actually kind of nice taking it to a different site because you get a different flavor," Pohlman said. "Springfield was great hosting it last year and Tom Snook [Whitmer athletic director] will be great hosting it too.
"It's been getting better every year. It's great."
Libbey coach Eric Henderson and Edgerton coach Kevin Kline are serving as co-head coaches for the Gold squad while Fremont St. Joseph Central Catholic coach Todd Drusback, along with several retired coaches, including ex-Rossford coach Tom Ferguson and ex-Swanton coach Dave Hansbarger, are in charge of the Black squad.
Henderson, who graduated from DeVilbiss the same year the inaugural regional all-star game took place, is looking forward to Friday for a reason different than everyone else involved in this year's game.
"I regret to say when they started this all-star game I declined to play in it," Henderson said. "I had my scholarship [to Miami University] and was just not interested. For the last five or six years coming and watching this game, I wish I had played."
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