Practices have been spirited for all-star football game

Practices have been spirited for all-star football game


Practices have been spirited for all-star football game


South quarterback Asante Wilder of Mansfield Senior looks for an opening to run through during practice for Saturday night’s all-star game at Lexington High School.

South quarterback Asante Wilder of Mansfield Senior looks for an opening to run through during practice for Saturday night’s all-star game at Lexington High School.

If Mark Genders vs. Scott Spitler III is anything like the first two installments, fans are in for plenty of scoring and high drama Saturday night.

The North Central Ohio Football Coaches Association All-Star Classic will be the rubber match in a trilogy that began when Genders’ Plymouth Big Red beat Spitler’s Lucas Cubs 40-22 in the 2014 season opener and continued when the Cubs avenged that loss 37-34 in the first-round of the Division VII playoffs.

“When we were nominated by the coaches association to coach in this game, we looked at each other and said, ‘We might as well,'” said Spitler, overseeing the South.

Turnovers played a big part in those other two meetings. Spitler’s squad committed six in the season opener and Plymouth got careless with the ball in the playoff rematch, with three turnovers down the stretch helping Lucas rally from a 28-7 third quarter deficit for the first post-season win in school history.

With only four days for the all-stars to practice and jell into a cohesive unit after an eight-month layoff, turnovers are, as Genders put it, “inevitable.”

“You just hope you have one less than them,” he said. “You have to be careful. These kids have had a lot of success and you don’t want to emphasize the obvious. You don’t want kids to think ‘I can’t turn it over.’ Kids are trying to make big plays. You don’t want them to stop trying. You want them to want the ball, to fight for the extra yard.”

The Classic puts limitations on the defense (no stunting or blitzing and only man coverage) to encourage more scoring, but it doesn’t look like the two head coaches need a tweaking of the rules for that to happen. Not after their schools combined for 133 points in the two meetings last fall.

“(Game organizers) want to see the ball in the air,” Spitler said.

He’ll try to oblige, although one of the two quarterbacks on his roster opted not to play, leaving those responsibilities to South Central’s Jacob Carney and Mansfield Senior’s Asante Wilder, who was more of a slot back for the Tygers last season.

“He’s a slash guy,” Spitler said. “He could also play wide receiver or running back for us. He’s playing quarterback out of necessity, but he’s adjusted well.

“It’s neat how these all-stars pick things up so fast. They’ve been doing it for four years. I wouldn’t trade my Lucas team, but I’d love to have this talent. You’ve got the area’s best at every position.”

The South is loaded with defensive linemen and linebackers,which Spitler hopes will help his team overcome any restrictions placed on the defense. He referred to Ontario end Bronson Krull as a “beast, a physical specimen” and also praised the Loudonville duo of end Joey Artrip and Ashland University-bound linebacker Tristan Bender, the News Journal’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Others opening eyes on that side of the ball in practice have been Mansfield Senior end/linebacker Anton Franklin and Highland linebacker Jacob Brown.

“It’s a shame we can’t stunt or blitz, but our guys are still going to get to the ball in a hurry,” Spitler said. “They’re really bringing it. They’re hungry for one more crack at it.”

It’s hard for quarterbacks and receivers to get their timing down in such a short time frame for a game like this, but the North might have an edge there since Genders can lean on his Plymouth pass-catch combo of quarterback Hunter Bailey and Tyrell Edmison.

During the regular season Bailey threw for 2,003 yards and 25 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions. His primary target was Edmison, who earned News Journal Co-Offensive Player of the Year honors after catching 43 passes for 1,139 yards and 19 TDs.

“Oh, man, those two have been awesome (in practice),” Genders said. “Hunter has established a relationship with the other two quarterbacks (Cole Murtiff of Bucyrus and Keaton Teynor of Wynford), making sure they’re all on the same page. And Tyrell is like another coach out there with the other receivers, helping them with our concepts and routes.

“I hate to toot the horn for my own guys, but Tyrell is such a man. He’s close to 6-4, 220 pounds and he’s tough to deal with, especially with his athleticism and speed.”

Other players who have caught Genders’ eye include Madison running back Juwan Howard, Mapleton receiver Connor Black and Wynford defensive lineman Cyle Skidmore.

“He’s an animal,” Genders said of Skidmore. “Let me put it this way: We’re having a very tough time blocking him. There are kids that ‘flash up’ like that, but they’re all pretty solid.

“It’s nice to get back after it … or get started (on the 2015 season) early. It gets the juices flowing again.”


Twitter: @jspencermnj

If you go

What: North Central Ohio Football Coaches Association All-Star Football Classic

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Lexington High School

FYI: Tickets are $6 presale or $8 at the gate. For more information, call the Lexington High School athletic ticket office at 419-884-2101. The head coaches will be Mark Genders of Plymouth for the North and Scott Spitler of Lucas for the South. Also at the event, 14 $1,000 scholarships will be awarded during halftime.


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