Ray Pohlman calls the annual Regional All-Star Football Game a coming together of northwest Ohio to celebrate the spirit of high school football.
The exhibition contest that features recently graduated seniors from area schools will take place for the 21st time Friday night at Perrysburg's Steinecker Stadium. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
"Football brings people together," said Pohlman, one of the event's organizers.
"It's a good coming together of northwest Ohio football. It's just fun. It also is the kickoff for Aug. 1st when two-a-days begin. You start getting the flavor. And people around here love high school football."
The game, which is sponsored by the Perrysburg athletic boosters, pits a Black team against a Gold team with many former rivals joining up as teammates.
"You've got Perrysburg guys playing with Maumee guys," said Pohlman, who is Perrysburg's athletic director. "You have St. Francis players playing with Central guys. They were always opponents. But now they're on the same side. They can share stories, and they find out they really are just like each other."
Central Catholic graduate Delroy Chance, a defensive lineman, said it has been strange lining up with former foes on the Black team during the week-long, daily practices leading up to the game.
"[Playing with] St. Francis is kind of weird because we just don't like them," Chance said. "It's a fun rivalry though. It's cool because football is a team sport and you can build friendships with a lot of people from different teams. There has been a little bit of trash talking. But everyone loves everyone. So it's nothing bad."
Chance, at 6-foot-1 and 290 pounds, earned All-City League first-team honors last fall. He said the players are not treating the game as an exhibition event.
"This will be full go," Chance said. "We play every game to win. We don't plan on losing anytime soon."
Rossford defensive back Andrew McFarland, who is a member of the Gold team, said he never dreamed of playing in the all-star contest.
"I was in shock and awe that I made it," McFarland said. "It's a privilege to be out here. This means that out of our district we were the best athletes."
Perrysburg safety John Reddick said playing one final game on his home turf at Perrysburg Junior High will make it extra special.
"I will have a lot of friends and family members here to see this," Reddick said. "It's an honor because I know how many good people there were on our team. We had 17 seniors or so. It's an honor the coaches picked me."
The Gold squad is being guided by a group of retired coaches led by former longtime Swanton coach David Hansbarger and Rossford coach Tom Ferguson. Among the group they have 301 career victories.
"These guys coached in the area for years," Pohlman said. "They like doing this. They have fun with the kids."
Hansbarger, who guided Swanton to a 154-87-5 record and seven league titles over 24 seasons (1972-1995), was inducted into the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2002. Ferguson retired in 2002 with a record of 119-133-3. His Bulldog teams produced six league titles from 1979-2002.
The Black team will be headed up by the coaching staffs from Toledo Christian and Bowsher high schools.
Pohlman said about 30 to 40 percent of the players will continue to play football in college.
"And the rest of them will enjoy their last game [Friday night]," he said.
McFarland said he will be playing in his last football game. McFarland, who also is a goalkeeper in soccer, said he plans to walk on at Bowling Green State University and hopes to be part of the Falcons' soccer program.
"I've always loved the sport. I'm sad it will be over," he said.
Genoa offensive guard Andrew Hayes, the co-Suburban Lakes League player of the year, is a teammate of McFarland's on the Gold team. Hayes, who was a member of the All-Blade team, will be joined by Genoa teammate Derek Allgier.
Coaches and scouts from some small colleges also will be taking notes at the game, Pohlman said.
"Some of the players get inspired after they play this week," he said. "They will go on and walk on for a college team. It gives them one last thrill, and they decide they want to give college football a try."
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6354.