ELIDA – It’s all about pride.
When area graduated seniors walk onto the football field Friday night for the 15th annual Van Wert County Hospital All-Star football game at Van Wert’s Eggerss Stadium, representing their respective schools and leagues will be forefront on their minds.
For years, it’s been the Western Buckeye League All-Stars versus the Midwest Athletic Conference/Northwest Conference All-Stars.
This season, the MAC/NWC squad has been renamed the Lima Area/NWC All Stars.
Overall, the WBL has lost eight of the 14 games played. However, the WBL has won five of the past seven matchups, including winning the last two. Last year, the WBL handily defeated its opponent, 38-10.
This year, Elida head coach Jason Carpenter and his staff will guide the WBL team. The Lima Area/NWC All Stars will be coached by Crestview coach Jared Owens and his staff. Gates open at 6:30 Friday. Player introductions will be at 7:20 p.m. with the kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
“It’s fun for the kids,” Elida assistant coach Jeff Thomas said. “It’s definitely a great time to make some new relationships and meet some people. For some guys, it’s the last time of putting on the pads. And some guys are getting a tune-up before going off to college to play.
‘We’ll find out as the week goes on that they will all come together to play as a team. It’s the WBL versus the rest of the area. So, we take a lot of pride in defending our league. I know all the other teams in the area will be gunning for us. It should be a fun week.”
There are some special rules for this all star-game. The 60/40 rule on offense is one of the most significant rules of the game. With this rule, the offenses are required to pass at least 60 percent of the time.
“The rules kind of encourage more passing,” Thomas said. “We can only blitz in certain situations, and we can’t stunt up front. It definitely encourages a little more offense.”
For Bath multi-sport athlete Colin Gossard (6-3, 180, wide receiver/safety), Friday night will be the final time he will put on the shoulder pads. Gossard will attend the University of Findlay next school year where he will play baseball.
“It definitely feels different to get into the pads again,” Gossard said. “But at the same time, I think it’s going to be fun and exciting to be able to play with a bunch of guys from the league.”
Elida’s Tyler Smith (5-9, 200, defensive end) also will be playing his final competitive football game Friday as he will be serving in the Air Force.
“It’s great to see some of the guys we played against,” Smith said. “It means a lot to be picked for something special like this.”
There are some players who will continue their football careers at the college level this coming fall.
Wapakoneta place-kicker Bailey Hinegardner (6-0, 215) will be taking his skills to Capital University next school year. Hinegardner has always been a fan of this all-star classic.
“I’ve always been interested in playing in this all-star game, ever since I was a sophomore and started playing football,” Hinegardner said. “It’s kind of fun to be involved in it, instead of just watching the seniors play.
“To play with the guys you played against in the WBL is kind of cool. Everyone wants to win; nobody wants to lose. You want to go out with a win in your senior year.”