Nothing unique as OVAC All-Stars

WHEELING – The players in Sunday’s Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Rudy Mumley All-Star Game may not possess the talent of those NFL stars selected for the Pro Bowl, but the youngsters do have a leg up on the professional athletes.

The young adults of the Ohio Valley garner more interest and attention than the grossly overpaid and infamously flamboyant NFL players.

I’ve been covering high school sports for a little over five years and have never experienced the excitement for a high school all-star game than what I came across for the annual game at Wheeling Island Stadium.

There were some great stories at media day, talking with kids who have dreamed in playing in this game for years – their brothers played, their cousins played, even their fathers and grandfathers we’re all-stars.

Being one of the best in the area in 2014 still carries the weight that it did in 1940, it seems.

The glory starts on the Sunday before the game as the selected players report to camp. That alone is a novel idea.

Other regional all-star games just make the players show up to practice three nights a week for only two to three hours. Last week, players from Ohio and West Virginia were housed in dorms at Bethany College.

I picture scenes from “Remember the Titans” when Herman Boone (played by Denzel Washington) brought his team to Gettysburg College to train with two-a-days, a jog through the forest and blend different classes of boys together with the goal of winning football games.

Jose Davis and B.J. Depew were doing the same.

The leaders of Ohio and West Virginia, respectively, worked with graduates of a combined 34 different schools. They each met many of the players just last week and only had seven days to transform them into players of their own mold.

Davis, a Bellaire native, and Depew, a Linsly graduate, are familiar with a lot of their players, having faced a handful of them during the regular season.

That wasn’t the case for Ryan Slone in this year’s Jack Arvin Classic.

This all-star football game is between Mahoning and Trumbull counties and has been played for the last 27 years.

Slone is the head coach of Chalker High School, located in Southington of northern Trumbull County. On the job for three years, he took the Wildcats to their first postseason appearance since 2001.

For that accomplishment, he was named a head coach in the Jack Arvin Classic. Not for Trumbull, though. He coached the unfamiliar Mahoning County team, simply because no coach from the immediate area wanted it.

So Slone, who did not even face a Mahoning County team in 31 games, and three of his Southington players, joined forces with a new area.

That just shows how little the game means to the Mahoning Valley region. I can’t imagine that ever happening here in the Ohio Valley.

The tradition and pageantry of the OVAC All-Star Game spans generations and, by the looks of it, will continue for years to come.

Celebrating its 69th year, the game is one of the oldest in the country. At 77 years, the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas is the nation’s oldest high school football all-star game. It’s actually the first of its kind.

Based off the East-West Shrine Game, played in San Francisco by college players, the inaugural high school Shrine game was played in Charlotte in 1937. According to its website, the first game attracted 5,500 spectators. More than $2,500 was raised for the Shriners Children’s Hospital. Now, every year, the game raises upward of $1.7 million.

Charity is the name of the game for the OVAC, too. The conference has raised more than $800,000 in recent years for local organizations.

Nearly all of the 12,200 seats at Wheeling Island Stadium were filled on Sunday and all spectators brought with them an electric atmosphere. I loved the “O-H-I-O” and “Let’s Go Mountaineers” chants – it was like a Division I college football game.

Many of the players will be off to college in the next few weeks, whether they are continuing their athletic careers or not. They’re all going their separate ways, but we still be united by OVAC week.

“I’d go a whole 10 games more with these guys,” said Indian Creek graduate Blake Roar, who helped Ohio defeat West Virginia, 27-26.

It’s a strong and true statement. One that likely would never come out of the mouth of an NFL All-Star.

(Peaslee, a Youngstown native, is a sports writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. He can be contacted at and followed on Twitter at @thempeas)