Locals compete in Ohio-Pa. All-Star Game

NEW MIDDLETOWN – Jaylin Williams thought it was over. He thought he’d never step on a football field ever again.

Williams and his Steubenville teammates left Canton’s Fawcett Stadium on Nov. 29, 2013 after a devastating 37-7 defeat to Cardinal Mooney in the Division IV state semifinal.

And a hole was left in Williams’ competitive soul.

“I had the feeling of never playing high school football again,” Williams said. “There was an emptiness in my heart.”

On Friday, it was filled with football again.

Williams and fellow Big Red graduate Arin Goldsmith, along with Toronto’s Josh Roche; Khalil Jones and Ryan Fletcher of Steubenville Central and Indian Creek’s Blake Roar, Justin Gibson, Paul Eakle took part in the 35th annual Penn-Ohio Stateline Classic at Springfield Local High School in New Middletown.

The Pennsylvania team won, 24-7, and Craig Thompson of New Brighton High School was named Most Valuable Player. The Robert Morris recruit caught three touchdown passes in the win.

Even in defeat, the players representing Jefferson County and the Ohio side enjoyed their time in the spotlight.

“Practice was a blast preparing for this game,” said Williams, who hasn’t put on pads in seven months but stayed in shape by boxing, lifting and running. “The team chemistry was great. We meshed right away and became friends during every practice.”

Fletcher and Jones helped lead the Crusaders to a 9-3 record and a Division VII regional semifinal appearance. Both will play football in college (Fletcher at Washington & Jefferson and Jones at Blinn College in Texas), so practicing and playing with new teammates help ease the transition for the next level.

“The practices were different as far as learning a different offense, but it’s been fun meeting new players and coaches and forming a bond with them.”

Added Jones: “It’s a great experience to be a part of team who shares the same heart and devotion to the game. We have a good base and a common bond that helped in our desire to play our best.”

With three Redskins represented, the established camraderie helped bridge the gap on the new team.

“It’s always great to have your teammates on your side in a game like this,” Roar said. “But meeting new guys who are just as good as you, if not better, and playing a game of football together as a team makes it exciting.”

Players were notified of their appearance in the game earlier in the month.

All participants received an all-star plaque.