The Lorain County Coaches Association All-Star Football Game, which had been held annually for the past 35 years, is taking a year off and may be gone for good.
Rising insurance costs, lack of sponsorship and general apathy led to the final decision by the coaches.
“It’s kind of run its course,” said Amherst coach and association president Mike Passerrello. “Kids are going off to college early or have work conflicts. It’s just been harder and harder to get enough practice time for the players.”
“It was a tough decision,” said Midview coach D.J. Shaw, the vice-president of the association. “We’ve had this discussion for a number of years now. It was getting pretty expensive to have the game. Insurance costs are one thing to consider and when June 1 rolls around, a lot of coaches are running camps. Coaches aren’t just sitting around after the season ends.”
Finding volunteers to help with tasks such as lining the field and manning the concession stands has grown more difficult over the years, though referees and officials have volunteered their time for free in the past.
Then there are the players. Not enough of them seem to want to play in the game any more. In the most recent game, many players had to line up in positions they hadn’t played during the regular season since there were only about 20 participants on each team.
“At our November meeting, we decided to table it for at least a year,” Passerrello said. “It’s disappointing. It’s been a longstanding tradition and we hated to give it up, but more and more kids are working or getting ready for college. The reasons all added up.”
Mike Collier, one of the coaches from last year’s game, felt bad about the decision to cancel but believes it’s the right call.
“We’ve struggled with numbers the past couple years,” he said. “Seems like kids are involved in baseball or other things. Kids are leaving early to attend college. We used to turn out a lot of kids to play the game but now those numbers are really down. We’ve had kids playing out of position and they’re really not in football shape. They haven’t played in six months or so. It’s tough to get them ready in a week’s time.
“I wish we had a better solution. I had a great time coaching the kids and the ones involved seemed to enjoy getting a chance to play one more time. There’s always a possibility it will be revived.”
Oberlin coach Mike Akers has been around several area programs over the years and was disappointed the game was canceled.
“I think we need to get more sponsors behind it,” he said. “Get the communities to support it. I last coached the All-Stars in 2007 and I called all the coaches and asked them to get the players out for it. I think it still could work.
“I know it’s a pain in the neck to get the players out. There’s graduations and graduation parties and other stuff to do. Some years there aren’t that many senior all-star players. It’s a tough call.”
Elyria coach Sean Arno understands the decision.
“I don’t know a lot about it,” he said. “What I do know is this: Since I’ve been back (in Lorain County), it seems to be a struggle to get coaches to participate and players to play. I’m not sure why. Players are involved in other sports and that seems to be a conflict.”
Firelands coach Ryan O’Rourke, who played quarterback for Avon, also understands the players’ side.
“Obviously, it’s unfortunate but after hearing out other coaches, it seemed to be the only option,” he said. “Kids are not participating in this game the way they used to. I’m not the best example because I didn’t participate as well because I was in the North-South game the next week. Over the years, it’s truly not been an all-star game with the best players participating.”
“I don’t think the best players were playing in the game,” he said. “I know last year Dustin Crum (Midview quarterback and 2016 Golden Helmet winner) had a Division I scholarship to Kent and didn’t want to risk the chance of getting hurt. He had played in the North-South game just the week before.
“I didn’t play in it. I was a Division II college player but we had to report in early June. You see the same thing happening at the college bowl games. Some players are skipping those because they don’t want to jeopardize their possible pro careers.”
Shaw said the coaches had a difficult time scratching the game.
“It’s unfortunate,” Shaw said. “I know a lot of kids enjoyed playing in the game but when you only have 18 to 20 kids, it’s hard to get a team ready. Too many are playing out of position. We made the decision in the best interest of the kids.”
Even though this year’s game has been canceled, the association will remain active in deciding All-County teams.
“The kids deserve the recognition,” Passerrello said. “We’ll continue our Hall of Fame and the other things the association is involved in.”
Passerrello was ready to finish his term as president of the association until the untimely death of Vermilion coach Matt Kobal in November. Kobal, who coached one of the all-star teams last spring, had been selected to be the next president at the November meeting just days before his death.
“He was a great guy with a lot of enthusiasm,” Passerrello said of Kobal. “He was anxious to get started on being the new president. It was a huge blow to us.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.