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Time to ‘pad up and play again’

Annual OVAC football game set to kickoff Sunday at 7 p.m.

July 25, 2013
Weirton Daily Times

BETHANY - Thirteen local athletes get to "pad up" in preparation for Sunday's 7 p.m. Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Football Classic at Wheeling Island Stadium.

To a man, they all had smiles on their faces when it came to talk about playing in the game.

For Weir High's Daren Baldwin, this game means a lot more than for some of the other players.

"Playing in this game is very important for me," he said. "I want to get a win because my season wasn't so great. I like being down here around all these good guys and having fun."

The Red Riders went 3-37 in Baldwin's four years.

"It was really tough going through those years with very few wins," he said. "But, you just have to live with it. Having so few wins makes me really hungry for a win this week. I play how I play every game.

"Playing in this game is a big honor. I know a lot of good players have played in this game, so it makes you feel kind of important to play in it. Being around all these guys, playing the game we love is a great feeling."

Buckeye Local's Shane Duncan caught 20 passes for 505 yards and four scores. He recorded 47 tackles, had three interceptions and one fumble recovery.

"I didn't expect this," he said. "It's a big honor and I'm happy to be playing in it. I really didn't think I was going to get a chance to play another game, so it's special being here.

"It's been great meeting new people and making memories."

Edison's Chris Graziani ran for 901 yards and seven touchdowns this past season. He also caught 12 balls and scored 13 touchdowns. Graziani was a factor as a return man as well, accumulating 350 yards on returns.

Along with earning three letters in football, Graziani was a three-year letterman in track.

"I've been wanting to play in this game since the end of my senior season in football," he said. "It's an honor to play. It's pretty exciting. It's great hanging out with these guys and making new friends."

Steubenville Catholic Central's Zach Herrington will head to Mount Union to play football.

"I've been waiting for this all year," said Herrington. "I was so excited when I got the letter to play in this game, because I get to represent my school and, obviously, my state. I just can't wait."

The 6-4, 190-pounder caught 102 balls for 1,339 yards and 16 touchdowns. He owns the school record for receptions in a game and season. Herrington was a first-team Eastern District, all-OVAC and all-Quad County.

"To be able to represent Catholic Central in this game means everything. I can't wait.

"It's important to have a lot of fun out here. You meet a lot of people. I get to hang out with my future teammates at Mount Union. It already has been a lot of fun.

"It's pretty cool being able to play with some of the guys we went against during the season."

This game is special for a diffferent reason for Brooke's Raleigh Mason.

"This means a lot to me because I'm third generation," he said. "My grandfather played in it, my father played in it and now I'm going to play in it. I want to carry on that tradition and help lead the West Virginia side to a victory.

"All the camaraderie of the team is great. Meeting new players, guys you went against for four years and the coaching staff has been great. Everything has been going real smoothly. I'm enjoying my self a lot. The practices are fun. We're hanging out with one another.

"This means a lot to me and my family.

"The most important part of this week is setting aside our differences, since we played on different teams, and coming together as one and going out there and beating Ohio."

Oak Glen's Preston Murray is thankful to be playing for a number of reasons, but sibling rivalry may top that list.

"It's really important to play in this game because my brother played in it (2004)," said the two-time all-stater, who ensures big brother does not have bragging rights. "It means a lot to play. I'm pretty pumped for it.

"I think practice this week is really important for us. Perfect practice makes perfect. This is a good experience."

Harrison Central's Nick Pelegreen will play baseball at Wheeling Jesuit.

"Since I decided to play baseball in college, this is going to be my last football game ever," he said. "It's terrible in a way, but I'm very excited. It's very important to me because it is the last time I'll be able to pad up and play again.

"It means a lot to play.

"I think the most important part of the week is bonding with all these players from the Ohio Valley. You play against them all your life and they become your rivals. Now, you get to spend time with them as your teammates, really get to know them and you get that special bond and makes everything a lot better."

It appears Big Red's Matt Petrella will be playing on the defensive side of the ball.

"Growing up as a little kid, seeing it and watching this game on Sunday - it was my goal to play in this game," he said. "It's really important to me that I was fortunate enough to be selected.

"It's pretty cool going from watching it growing up to now actually being in the game. It's kind of crazy.

"I think it's important for us to be in shape to be ready to go on Sunday, knowing we have to win.

"It's been a good time creating bonds with these guys, building new friendships. It's a good time."

Big Red's Dashon Redman, the 5-9, 200-pounder ran for 910 yards and recorded 72 tackles as a senior. He earned third-team All-Ohio, first-team All-Eastern District and All-OVAC.

"I am happy and honored to play in this game, our last high school game ever," he said. "I'll remember this game forever. I'm happy I'm out here so I can get in a little work before going to Mount Union. The need to be back on the field was pretty big.

"It's important to get a team bond with these guys and make some new friends.

"It's a fun time. They're all just like me, so it's fun beind around them."

Manard Reed was Big Red's MVP and is headed to Marietta College to play ball.

"It's been great meeting new people," he said. "I'm ready to go. It's nice to get back in pads and get ready to play in college. I just want to get my team ready to go on Sunday."

Brooke's Ben Rodgers, a 6-3, 255-pounder who was named Brooke's offensive lineman of the year, is looking forward to Sunday.

"It is really important to represent my school and my family," said Rodgers, who plans to attend Alderson-Broaddus to study secondary education and play football. "Only so many kids get to be picked and it's a real honor to be one of them and be able to meet new teammates and make new friendships for the rest of our lives.

"It's important to make friendships with all these guys, getting to know them all because they're my brothers for this week - become one and get the job done on Sunday night.

"We get work done, but we're having fun. It's a great experience."

Harrison Central's Tyler Rose had an exceptional season for the Huskies.

"It was important to play in this game for me because I really like being back in football again," he said. "It means a lot to play. I really like being here. It gives you the college experience while meeting a bunch of good guys."

Indian Creek's Shane Winland was a first-team All-Eastern District offensive lineman and was also special mention All-Ohio.

"Growing up as a kid I've been watching the game and actually told my dad one time that I was going to play in this game," he said. "It's a dream come true to actually be a part of this game.

"To be out here with a bunch of other athletes who are the best in the valley is special. It's an honor to be considered one of them.

"Team bonding this week is important. You can't function as a team if you just go out there yourself. You have to have trust in the person next to you and they have to be able to trust you.

"It's really cool getting to know these guys."

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