Tonight is homecoming for the Monterey County all-star high school football game.
After originating in Salinas nearly three decades ago but having moved to Monterey Peninsula College four years ago, the all-star game returns home tonight with a 6:30 p.m. kickoff at Rabobank Stadium.
It’s more than just a homecoming, though, it’s a revival. There was no all-star game last year after the long-time sponsors of the event, the Salinas Jaycees, cited a drop in membership among reasons they were unable to continue it after a 28-year run.
The Toro Youth Athletics — a Salinas-based grassroots youth sports organization – took the ball this year and brought back a game that includes players from just about every high school in Monterey County.
This is the first time the game will be played in December. It was played in early January when it moved to MPC and before that it was held at the end of July at Salinas High, and for a brief time, at Soledad High.
Tonight’s game also marks the end of the first football season for Rabobank Stadium, Salinas’ slick 5,000-seat, $7.5 million sports complex. It opended in September and hosted the first Central Coast Section championship football game ever in this town last Friday. There will likely be more title games, considering the rave reviews the stadium generated at the annual post-season CCS football coaches’ meeting earlier this week.
To mark the occasion of the stadium’s first year representatives from the San Francisco 49ers will be part of an on-field ceremony before kickoff. Randy Kirk, a linebacker and special team’s player for the 49ers from 1996 to 1999, will be one of those in attendance.
The teams are coached by Steve Zenk of North Salinas and Steve Goodbody of Salinas High. Players were divided into teams by the coaches to better balance the power of both sides.
Also, each team will represent a charity — Tatum’s Garden for Zenk’s team (black uniforms) and the Multiple Sclerosis Society for Goodbody’s (white jerseys).
Tatum’s Garden will include players from North Salinas, Alisal, Soledad, King City, Marina, Monterey, North Monterey County and Carmel.
Multiple Sclerosis Society consists of players from Palma, Salinas, Seaside, Alvarez and Trinity Christian.
Several players on both rosters were not only named to all-league teams but were chosen MVPs. The list includes MBL Gabilan Offensive MVP, Ronnie Turner of Seaside; Gabilan Division Most Outstanding Defensive Lineman, Justin Pleasont of Salinas High; MBL Pacific Division co-Offensive Player of the Year, quarterback Justyn Gutierrez of North Salinas; Most Valuable Offensive Lineman, Branden Pena of North Salinas; Most Valuable Defensive Lineman, Steve Otherson of Alvarez and the MTAL Defensive Player of the Year, linebacker Jose Martinez of Soledad.
Other players of note include running back Holden Smith of Carmel who ran for more than 4,600 yards during his three-year varsity career and became the county’s all-time career touchdown leader with 82; receiver David Dorr of North Salinas, who led the county in catches with 47 for 816 yards and seven touchdowns; quarterback Mitch Kidd, who helped Palma to another unbeaten league season; first-team all-leaguers Jon Santos and Elijah Kirkland of Salinas High and receiver-defensive back , Shane Lackey of Carmel.