Bill Albright hasn’t had much chance to unwind after guiding the Midview football team to an 8-2 record last season, but you can bet he’s not complaining.
Not that he’s had any time to complain even if he wanted to. Such is life as the head coach for the Ohio team in the Big 33 Football Classic.
“It’s exciting,” said Albright, who joins Avon Lake’s Dave Dlugosz as the only Lorain County coaches to be so honored. “It’s been some work just trying to put a team together with the other staff members.”
The 55th edition of the Big 33, which pits top high school stars from Ohio against their counterparts in Pennsylvania, will be Saturday, June 16, at 7 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pa.
Since getting the job in December, Albright, who just completed his 26th season guiding the Middies, has been working with his Big Classic assistant coaches to assemble a team, while also seeking input from fellow coaches such as Dlugosz who have been involved in the all-star game in the past.
“Just picking their brains to see what the timeframe is and what we have available to us,” Albright said. “We want to make it fun for the kids as well. We want to make it fun, but go over there with a purpose as well.”
Though the Ohio roster hasn’t been released yet, Albright said he will be taking one local player with him: Matt Eckhardt of Avon. Eckhardt, a wide receiver and Lorain County’s Golden Helmet winner as the top senior football player, was a key member of the Eagles’ run to the Division II state final, hauling in 75 passes for 1,389 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Some other area players on the team are Mike Svetina, St. Ignatius’ star linebacker who signed with Illinois; defensive back Devan Bogard, a defensive back from Glenville who is headed to Ohio State; Mike Brown, an offensive lineman from Sandusky who will play for Eastern Michigan; Aurora’s Anthony Melchiori, a special teams star bound for Kent State; and Jack Snowball, Wadsworth’s standout running back who signed with Miami of Ohio.
“We’ve got an Illinois kid, an Ohio State kid, a kid going to Air Force, West Virginia, Cincinnati … it really is amazing the football talent we have in Ohio,” Albright said.
Albright and his staff will meet with the players and their parents March 25 in Columbus. The team leaves for Hershey on June 10 and will spend the week getting ready for the game. Their first practice will be that Monday, then they’ll have four two-a-days with a Friday walkthrough.
As for the strategy, simple is likely best considering the little time the team will be together.
“Defense you’re pretty much relegated by the rules to playing a 4-3, and you have to play man coverage,” Albright said. “On offense you can do what you want. Because of the amount of time, we’ll run a spread like we do at Midview. We picked guys who fit that mold.”
Ohio has won the last three Big 33 Classics, including a 50-14 romp last season.
“The pressure’s on,” Albright said. “They’re also going to be honoring JoePa (Joe Paterno). It’ll be pretty exciting. They’re (Pennsylvania) going to want to win. But we’ve got a lot of great guys.”
Of course, Albright has another goal for the week, one he probably shares with just about everybody else making the trip to Hershey.
“Eat some chocolate,” he said.
North vs. South
There will be a local presence at the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association North-South Classic, as well, as Eckhardt and Elyria offensive lineman Tad France, a Kent State recruit, are on the North roster.
The game is set for Friday, April 20, at 4 p.m. at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
Contact Kevin Aprile at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.