For most of the players who will run on the field at 7:30 tonight at Whitmer High School for the 19th annual Perrysburg regional all-star football game, this is it.
It's the fourth quarter of their football lives; the final countdown for strapping on the helmets and slipping on the shoulder pads.
Understanding this is the end of the road for most of the 70-plus players, the game's outcome will certainly be important.
"For me, winning is everything," said Liberty Center graduate Damian Maes, a 5-foot-9, 160-pound cornerback playing on the Gold team. "But - win or lose - it's a great experience."
The all-star contest, which is organized by the Perrysburg boosters, has been a summertime staple in northwest Ohio for nearly two decades. It was created to raise funds to support
Perrysburg athletic programs. This year's game and the previous two have been played away from Perrysburg's home field due to construction work, including the laying down of an artificial playing surface.
Perrysburg booster Chuck Long, who has been involved in the planning of the game for the past few years, said the contest has been more than an opportunity for the boosters to raise money. It's an opportunity for many recent graduates to represent their high schools one final time.
Lake graduate Nick Mikels (6-1, 180) received some interest from a couple of small colleges to continue his football career. However, the wide receiver passed on the offers and will attend Bowling Green State University in the fall.
"I love football and it's a shame I won't play at the college level, but it's great to come out and play one more time," said Mikels, who is a member of the Black team.
The game caps a weeklong schedule that includes four days of practice.
St. Francis de Sales graduate D.J. McPartland (5-11, 165) is a member of the Black team. He is looking forward to playing wide receiver in the game after spending his high school career playing quarterback.
"I've been excited for this game all summer," said McPartland, who will attend the University of Toledo. "I'm a little rusty, but it's a lot of fun, and it's a privilege to do it."
Start graduate Terry Mitchell is among those participating who expect to continue playing in college. Mitchell (5-10, 183) is headed to UT as a preferred walk-on. He chose to play in the game because it offered him an opportunity to represent Start one more time.
"It means another chance to play high school football and have fun and play with other kids playing at a high level," he said.
Mitchell who is a member of the Gold team, makes it clear he wants to close out his high school playing experience as a winner.
"I always like to win, and I don't like to lose," Mitchell said.
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