OVAC All-Stars check in for week leading up to the big game

BETHANY — Bruce Stiles and Scott Holt were pulled in different directions Saturday.

Stiles, the ex-Union Local grid boss, stood smiling inside Bethany College’s Thomas P. Johnson Health and Recreation Center as players reported for this week’s 73rd OVAC Rudy Mumley All-Star Game.

“It’s nice,” the Ohio head coach said, taking a break from greeting members of his squad. “It’s actually a relief to get the kids in here and actually get a chance to talk to them and things like that.”

Holt, the Cameron head coach who’s guiding the West Virginia team, was across the way at the dorms, welcoming the Mountaineers.

“There’s a lot of excitement, a lot of nerves, too,” he said. “You’re seeing the kids for the first time and you know that in seven days you’re gonna have to play the biggest game in the valley with them. There’s excitement. You can see it in the kids’ faces and everyone here at Bethany.”

The TPJ was a scene of controlled chaos as parents checked in their sons for what figures to be a week of work and fun. That, both coaches believe, is one of their biggest challenges — how to balance things in preparation for a contest that’s about both.

“Being around this game, there’s times I’ve seen where staffs have tried to have too much fun and the lack of discipline really hurt the game,” Stiles said. “Then, I’ve seen it so strict where the kids really haven’t had any fun. So, we’ll try to maintain the behavior that’s expected of these guys, but we’ll have a little fun, too.”

Holt agreed, noting he wants to reward them for earning the title all-star.

“The kids got here for a reason,” he said. “They’re all talented and it’s our job to sort everything out and make sure we have the right kids in the right spots.

“We’ll do some fun drills and some activities throughout the week to keep it light. But once you’re on that field, it’s mostly work.”

Kickoff for the summer gleam game is 7:15 p.m. this Saturday. Before that, though, they’ll be the traditional events leading up to the game, such as the George Strager Evening with the Stars (Wednesday), the Queen of Queens Pageant (Thursday) and pep rally (Friday). It all makes for a well-rounded week, one that includes the cheerleaders and band.

“It’s really exciting and well-deserved for our staff,” Holt said. “Again, that comes with a lot of pressure, too. But I think we have a gameplan that will be complementary for everyone. We’ll see how it goes.”

That process of putting everything together begins in earnest today, when both coaching staffs will hit the ground running in trying to put the pieces in the right places.

“We’ll meet with the kids, talk with them and give them our expectations and how we want them to behave in relation to our team and our individual schools,” Stiles said. “We want to do that in a positive manner.

“We’re gonna do what we do. We just have to get the kids to understand the system.”

With social media being the way it, Stiles and Holt said the players seem to know each other more these days than in years past. That, they said, has made the “getting to know you” process a bit smoother and, in turn, helped spur along the planning process.

At the end of the day, though, it’s imperative, Stiles and Holt said, to take stock of how special a moment this week is.

“It’s an honor to coach in this game,” Stiles said. “It’s a premier event and we’re happy to do it. Hopefully, we’ll do a good job for everybody.