VAN WERT – A football game is a football game.
It doesn’t matter the time of the year, football players want to get out on the field and make a hit, or make that long run to the end zone.
Friday night, area graduated seniors will take part in the 15th annual Van Wert County Hospital Western Buckeye League versus Lima Area/Northwest Conference All Star Game at Van Wert’s Eggerss Stadium.
Gates open at 6:30 p.m. Player introductions will begin at 7:20 p.m. with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the gate. The game is hosted by the Van Wert Booster Club.
For the previous 14 years, the Northwest Conference has teamed up with Midwest Athletic Conference players. This year, the all star classic has been opened up to more of the Lima area players who would have not had an opportunity to play in the past.
The Lima Area/NWC all stars are coached by Crestview head coach Jared Owens and his staff. The Western Buckeye League squad is coached by Elida’s Jason Carpenter.
Owens is a former Crestview and Bluffton University quarterback who played in this all-star game in 2002. Owens understands the pride that goes into this annual matchup between the smaller schools in the NWC and the bigger schools in the WBL.
“We have some of the best players in Northwest Ohio that are playing in this game,” Owens said. “They’re competitors and they’re tough kids. They love football. So, when you put them in a competitive atmosphere, under the lights on a Friday night, there’s some pride involved for sure.”
For some of the athletes, playing in this all star game is a tune-up for their collegiate football careers.
Ada’s Matt Wilcox (6-1, 185), who will be starting at quarterback for the Lima Area/NWC squad, is heading to Ashland University later this summer to begin his college football career.
“It’s awesome, coming out here and practicing with them,” Wilcox said. “I really don’t know what they do in practice. So, it’s kind of cool to talk to them about how their practices are run. We all get out here and kind of mesh as a team. It’s fun playing with all these guys. It’s a good time. I know it will be a challenge. We just have a week to prepare. So, it’s going to be a good test to see what we can do.”
Delphos Jefferson running back Zavier Buzard (5-11, 190) also will be heading to Ashland to play football.
Buzard enjoys competing with players from other schools. However, the goal is still the same as it was when he played at Jefferson.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Buzard said. “All of the grudges are dropped and we kind of come together out here. It’s going to be fun. We’ll be looking for a win.”
Overall, the NWC all stars lead the series 8-6. However, the WBL has won five out of the past seven games, including the past two matchups.
The all star game has a few unconventional rules. The most significant rule, offensively, is the 60/40 rule. This rule requires the offenses to pass 60 percent of the time. Defensively, blitzes are not allowed
With the rules being geared to favor the offense, Friday’s game should be full of big plays.
“With the rules of the game being man-to-man coverage and only certain defenses, it comes down to if you can beat the man over you,” Owens said.