Three area standouts to play in North-South Classic

From Len Dawson to Alex Boone and Mario Manningham, 45 of the 47 Super Bowls have included at least one alumni of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association’s North-South Classic.

Super Bowls II and XXXII are the exceptions.

It’s impossible to tell who will continue that legacy, but when a collection of the top high school football players in the state meet in Dayton Saturday for the 68th edition of the Classic, three of the area’s best will be included in that elite group.

Columbian’s Jack Jacoby, Calvert’s Jared Thompson and Mohawk’s Drew Loose will get the opportunity to strap up the chinstrap one more time and represent their schools, this time in front of a statewide audience.

The nation’s oldest and longest-running all-star game will feature a new wrinkle this year, as the Classic will be divided into two games. One game will feature players from Division I, II and III high schools, while the other will feature players from Divisions IV, V and VI.

Jacoby will represent the North in the upper-division game, while Thompson and Loose will compete in the lower.

“I was a little bit in disbelief I guess,” Thompson said of the the moment he was informed of his selection. “A small town defensive end getting picked for that game, it’s a little hard to grasp.”

“I was pretty excited about it and glad I get the chance,” Loose added. “I’m very happy. It’s a cool experience. I just really enjoy that I have the opportunity to play in the game.”

Loose will get plenty of opportunity as one of only two quarterbacks listed on his team’s roster. Loose said he will be used more as a running threat.

Erik Baker, Loose’s coach at Mohawk, went through a list of all the great backs he’s coached in the Mohawk program, but ranked Loose ahead of all of them.

“The last 12 years that I’ve been coach at Mohawk, he’s the most explosive athlete I’ve coached,” Baker said. “His ability in the openfield to extend plays is unparalleled. We’ve had athletic backs, power backs. We’ve had some great backs, great quarterbacks and Drew is the best combination of all those skills.”

Baker said as far back as he is able to recall, Loose is the first Mohawk player to represent the school in the North-South Classic. It’s an honor he says is well deserved.

“For him to be our first representative is fabulous,” he said. “For Drew to be able to demonstrate his ability on a stage where there are kids that are going to Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, that level of competition, is a fabulous opportunity. I think he’s more than up to the challenge.”

It’s an opportunity that Loose is looking forward to making the most of.

“It means a lot to me to represent my school and I hope I can play well and represent Mohawk well,” he said. “I hope I can go out there and make the school proud.”

The rosters are littered with Division I college recruits. Jacoby said it means a lot to be included in such an elite group.

“It was an honor,” Jacoby said. “To be able to play in biggest game, with a bunch of great athletes from around the state is such an honor and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Jacoby said he’s looking to make the most of his final time to put on a Columbian helmet.

“It’s definitely a last-hurrah kind of thing,” he said. “I just got to focus on playing the game and representing the school well. Show up and play hard for the town and the team.”

Jacoby and Thompson will get an added gift as each will play for their high school coaches one last time. Columbian’s Brian Colatruglio will be the North’s head coach in the I, II and III game while Calvert’s Todd Fox will be an assistant in the IV, V and VI game.

“I was pretty shocked,” Colatruglio said of his emotions when he was informed of his selection. “I was honored and overwhelmed a little bit being picked. A lot of great high school football coaches in the state of Ohio that have coached in this game and I’m honored to be apart of that.”

Jacoby is looking forward to playing with Colatruglio one final time, and also glad he already knows the playbook.

“It’s easier for me cause I know all the plays we’re running,” he said. “It’s cool to represent the school with him, and we can show everyone how strong our program is.”

Colatruglio said he’s glad to gets to share the experience with Jacoby.

“It’s a real perk to not only be chosen to coach in the game, but to have one of our players in the game,” Colatruglio said. “This being my third year at Columbian, Jack’s been a 2-way starter all three of those years and a big reason for our success. It’s a great cap to his career at the end of a 4-year career. For his last game to be in a game of this magnitude and to have the chance to coach him one more time is really something special.”

Fox echoed those comments when talking about Thompson.

“He’s a great individual. No matter what, we were able to count on him to just go out and do his job. You just forgot he was there sometimes, because you knew he was going about his work and getting his job done. He’s self-driven, highly motivated. We’re fortunate to have him as part of the family.”

Fox referred to Thompson as a hard worker that didn’t make the highlight reels, but was important to the team’s success, and proof you don’t have to stuff the stat sheets to get recognition.

“Jared has always been in the shadows of great players,” he said. “It shows you don’t have to be the one in the spotlight to get recognition.”

Another Seneca, Dan Kwiat, also was selected for the game, but won’t be able to play due to an injury suffered during wrestling season. Kwiat, though, still is a member of the team and will be with the team for practices and on the sideline during the game.

Thompson said it makes the experience all the more special having his coach and good friend there to share it with.

“It’s something special. (Fox), me and Dan we all had a special connection. We’d always joke around with each other. I’m happy that he’s one of the coaches. It’s kind of relieving I knew someone going in. I’m happy with him being there.”

This is the second-straight year Calvert will be represented in the game. Stephen Smith was the North’s kicker a year ago.

Thompson said it shows how far the program has come under Fox.

“Coach Fox has done a great job with the program,” Thompson said. “A couple years ago the program was in ruins. We were everyone’s homecoming game. Now the football team is probably one of the highlights of Calvert.”

“It speaks volumes for the hard work all the gentlemen are putting fourth,” Fox added. “It also keeps that carrot out there for those coming down the line to be the next ones.”

The I, II and III game kicks off 4 p.m. Saturday at Dayton Welcome Stadium with the IV, V and VI game to follow at 7 p.m. Both will be televised live on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel.