WHEELING - As is always the case with the Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Charity Football Classic, friendships have been formed, teams have gelled and there was even a little bit of trash talking.
However, it's almost time to get down to business.
After a week of camp and some 15 practices at Bethany College, game day has finally arrived as Ohio and West Virginia are set to battle for annual bragging rights at 7:15 p.m. today at Wheeling Island Stadium.
OHIO — These young men and coaches will be representing Ohio in tonight’s 68th annual Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Charity Football Classic. First row: head coach Mark Holenka, Brooks Ramsey (1), Matt Kinnick (2), Chase Kinemond (5), Ian Baker (6), Matt Petrella (7), assistant coach Mike Kernik. Second row: Dallas Fields (8), Korey Lafferre (9), Zach Herrington (10), Brandon Bailey (12), Teryn Jarrett (14), Cody Hudson (20), Nick Asturi (21), assistant coach Randy Merryman. Third row: manager Sam Merryman, manager Kyle Tomlinson, Luke Smith (22), Chris Graziani (28), Dabiel Lattanzio (29), Dashon Redman (32), Trent Neavin (33), Manard Reed (34), Nick Pelegreen (40). Fourth row: assiatnt coach B.A. Holloway, Sean McGee (44), Zach Coole (52), Brian Magorien (54), Josh Guiler (55), Brandon Brown (56), Tyler Rose (58), Shane Winland (66), assistant coach Willie Merryman. Fifth row: assistant coach Ty Fleming, assistant coach Chase Grinch, Evan Eggleston (70), Dalton Conroy (72), Corey Ernest (75), Troy Blair (77), Colton Pritchard (80), Shane Duncan (88), assistant coach John Grinch, assistant coach Jeff Campbell. -- Photo provided by Briggs Photography
WEST VIRGINIA — These young men and coaches will be representing West Virginia in tonight’s 68th annual Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Charity Football Classic. First row: head coach Mike Young, Braxton Johnson (1), Tyler Bolen (2), Blaine Stewart (3), Stephen Rogalski (5), Jordan Bonar (6). Second row: Tanner Hanna (7), Logan Cox (8), Chris Varner (9), Michael Pleva (10), Evan Magers (12), Jeremiah Fromhart (14), Raleigh Mason (20). Third row: Tim Kocher (21), Hunter LeMasters (22), Alex Weidman (32), Daren Baldwin (33), Chinelo Oparanozie (34), Jalen Thomas (40), Andrew Wheeler (44), Jonathan Lewis (52). Fourth row: Jake Fieler (54), Nick Naumann (55), Ben Rodgers (60), Chance Siebieda (66), Tanner Yoho (68), Austin Martin (70). Fifth row: manager Derek Yocke, Markeith O’Neal (72), Preston Murray (75), Spencer Mason (78), Alex Doak (80), Deion Cunningham (88), manager Parker Henry. Sixth row: trainer Jason Coleman, assistant coaches Jim Wolfe, Jamie Bordas, Shannon Kuchinski, Eddie Anderson, DeVaughn Gordon, Jason Rine. -- Photo provided by Briggs Photography
"(The week) really started to speed up about midweek, but it's really nose to the grindstone and very regimented," said Ohio head coach Mark Holenka, who is in coaching in his first all-star game. "It's been a good week. We've been treated well at Bethany, the OVAC has this down to like a science and the kids have been great. The hay's in the barn and it's time to play the game.
While Holenka is a rookie in the coaching capacity of the game, Young is embarking on his fifth time on the sidelines and second time as the head coach.
"It's been a great week," Young said. "I know both staffs are excited because it's been a good week with good kids. The teams have had the utmost respect for each other and they've done what they're supposed to do to get ready to play."
All-star games are about the relationships, the experience and having fun, both teams went through camp this week with the idea of winning.
"We have to hope we want it as bad as West Virginia wants it," Holenka said. "Everything has to be clicking not only physically, but also in terms of between the ears and intensity."
Holenka didn't go quite as far as to say there's pressure to win the game tonight, but being a life-long Ohio Valley native, he realizes what this game means to both states.
"It's probably more important for the kids than myself, but we're here as a team and we all want to win," Holenka said. "If we win, it should be exciting for everyone and if we lose, it should hurt a little bit. If it doesn't hurt, then it doesn't matter. And if it doesn't matter, why did we put the week in? It matters, but maybe it matters most because for a lot of these kids they'll never play another game."
Young believes the rivalry between the two states has actually grown in recent memory because with the addition of some of the bigger West Virginia schools, it's closed the gap significantly and the game sort of evened up.
"It's not been quite as one-sided," Young said. "It's a matter of pride for both states. I think the fact that you have coaching staffs that are prideful in their programs. There's no doubt in my mind that both staffs have exemplified that to the kids that if we're going to do this, we're going to do it right."
The relationships certainly haven't been an issue for either side. Holenka has actually spent time this week observing who his players hung out with early in the week as to compared to later in the week.
"Individuals walked with their classmates or close friends from other schools during the first day or two, but now you'll see them walking with kids from all over because they've expanded their friendships," Holenka said. "That's actually been one of the neatest things about the week."
One of the most challeging aspects for both teams during the week is trying to determine what the other side is going to do. Obviously, Wheeling Central and Shadyside have played several years in a row against one another, but not with this personnel, which could cause some headaches in preparation.
"We play Wheeling Central, but not with these kids," Holenka said. "We've played (Chinello) Oparanozie, but not in this offense. You put the pieces to the puzzle together a little differently because of that."
Neither coach had finalized an official starting lineup because all of their players will be making impacts.
"It's going to be a revolving door of players," Holenka said. "We're still not really sure as to who will get the first get go and I'm not sure it really matters because they'll all be playing. It's an all-star game and everyone deserves to play, otherwise it was a waste of their time to even have come."
St. Clairsville's Matt Kinnick is expected to lead the Ohio offense onto the field, but Beallsville's Teryn Jarrett and Shadyside's Chase Kinemond will both see time under center.
Steubenville's Dashon Redman has been impressive in camp and will be one of the leaders of the tailback group, which also includes River's Nick Asturi, Shadyside's Brooks Ramsey and Edison's Chris Graziani.
Beaver Local's Daniel Lattanzio, Martins Ferry's Trent Neavin and Steubenville's Manard Reed will see time at the fullback spot.
The receiving corps is led by Steubenville Central's Zach Herrington, Shadyside's Cody Hudson, Steubenville's Matt Petrella, Monroe Central's Korey Lafferre, Bridgeport's Dallas Fields, Buckeye Local's Shane Duncan and Barnesville's Colton Pritchard.
Conotton Valley's Brandon Bailey will the primary tight end, but should Ohio should a double tight set, Harrison Central's Nick Pelegreen will be on the opposite side.
Ohio is expected to start Meadowbrook's Troy Blair at center, Martins Ferry's Zac Coole and Indian Creek's Shane Winland at guards, while St. Clairsville's Corey Ernest and Caldwell's Brian Magorien get the call at tackles.
River's Evan Eggleston and Cambridge's Brandon Brown will be the top subs in the trenches.
"We've gotten better and better each day, but I am sure (West Virginia) has, too," Holenka said. "As a coach, you're always confident that you're good enough, but in reality West Virginia is feeling the same thing. We're ready to play this game. The kids are ready, I'm ready and about on Wednesday I wasn't ready and was wondering if they'd just let me sit in the stands and watch, but we've gotten to the point where I feel comfortable going out there."
On the defensive side of the ball, St. Clairsville's Luke Smith, Pelegreen and Sean McGee are expected to see a lot of action at linebacker.
Neavin and Reed will line up at the defensive tackles, while Monroe Central's Josh Guiler and Harrison Central's Tyler Rose will be utilized at defensive ends.
In the secondary, Shadyside's Ian Baker and Kinemond will lead the way.
Bellaire's Dalton Conroy will serve as the Buckeye State placekicker.
"We've been on the field all week getting ready and I think we're ready, but the key is the kids must have enough confidence in themselves and the team to be able to get the job done," Young said. "The outcome is going to be one way or another, but the results are going to be shown by the kids coming together and playing as hard as they can to play a great football game."
Young's been most impressive with the leaps of confidence some of his players have shown as the week's progressed.
"We had some kids who probably came to camp thinking they might be just another face on this team, but we've got kids who are seeing they can play with the other kids," Young said.
Similarly to Ohio, Young will utilize three quarterbacks. South's Tyler Bolen, Magnolia's Tanner Hanna and John Marshall's Jeremiah Fromhart will all see time.
Linsly's Chinello Oparanozie will see plenty of carries in Jason Rine's deceptive Wing-T, Spin Series type offense.
Also expected to see time in the backfield are Brooke's Raleigh Mason, Morgantown's Alex Weidman and University's Tim Kocher.
"All of those backs are going to be bread and butter of our offense," Young said. "The key for both teams is putting the correct peg in the right hole."
Magnolia's Stephen Rogalski, University's Deion Cunningham, Morgantown's Blaine Stewart and South's Braxton Johnson will be at wide receiver.
Wheeling Central's Chance Siebieda will line up at center. He'll be joined up front by the likes of South's Jake Fieler, Brooke's Ben Rodgers, Wheeling Central's Nick Naumann and Morgantown's Jonathan Lewis.
"We like to run the ball in our offense, but we've definitely got some talent to be versatile," Young said. "We're going to put our best against their best, just like (Ohio) will."
The Mountain State's defense will feature Donahue's Jordan Bonar and Park's Andrew Wheeler at corners. Young also spoke highly of Morgantown's Jalen Thomas and Weir's Darren Baldwin at linebacker.
Wheeling Park's Markeith O'Neal has shined in practice.
"I feel very proud of the kids we've selected and what they've given us," Young said. "The outcome of the game is one thing, but the expectations of the game are something us and the performance of the kids to the level of their play is the true judge of the game."
Both teams will attend a Vespers church service this morning, have a team meal and will depart for the stadium at approximately 3:30 p.m.