Coaches sizing up talent in East-West All-Star Game

FOSTORIA – The coaches know they have good players. The question now is to figure out who goes where.

Fans will see the answer Saturday when the Fostoria Athletic Boosters East-West All-Star Game, one of the state’s oldest such contest, kicks off at Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m.

“It’s all about the experience, getting those kids out there and just playing physical football. … These kids are physical football players [on both teams],” said Sandusky Perkins coach Jason Ziegler, who will guide the East. “That’s how it’s going to be. It’s going to be fun coaching them.”

“It’s just an honor to get an opportunity to coach in this game, especially to coach our own guys,” he said. “It’s one of those deals where, after that last game (Perkins fell in the second round of the playoffs), you would think ‘I’m not going to get an opportunity to coach these guys [again]; it’s a sad day.’ So for us to get the opportunity to coach and practice with them, get to play a game, it’s truly a blessing. I’m very excited. We’re going to do the best we can, have fun, but our guys are going to be ready to play.”

All of the area’s local players will suit up for the East’s 29-man roster.

They include Columbian’s Donovan Walker (DB, QB); St. Wendelin’s Brad Buhrow (CB, QB); Upper Sandusky’s Alex Kenner (S, TE) and Dermot Garza (LB, TE); Fostoria’s Keegan Green (LB, FB); Carey’s Matthew Holsinger (CB, QB), Anthony Blair (DE, OL) and Jacob Goble (OL); Hopewell-Loudon’s Cody Malone (WR, RB), Weston Hill (DE, OT) and Adam Foos (DT, OG); and Seneca East’s Josh Waggoner (LB, OG).

The West boasts a 36-man squad.

West assistant Ryan Hite – Van Buren coach Kevin Shoup will guide that team, but could not attend Monday’s press conference – said the extra bodies will come in handy in regard to depth once the coaches figure out who goes where.

“We’ve got a lot of athletes. I think, looking on both sides of the squad, there’s a lot of athletes. We probably don’t have any of the huge, big linemen-type guys, but we’re looking to utilize guys in the way they’ve worked before,” Hite said. “If nothing else, we want to try to get everyone out there on the field and utilize everybody.”

And if the coaches run into a quandary about who to put where, he said the players have already offered to help.

“We tried to put a little bit on paper. We put some things in our heads,” Hite said. “We came up with a plan and took a little time during pictures [June 9] and said, ‘Hey, this is what we think,’ and then they told us we were wrong.”

No matter who goes where, both teams plan to use the spread offense.

It boils down to familiarity. Many teams already utilize that system, so the coaches said it will help keep things simple.

But challenges still abound.

Ziegler said he only has about four players who actually saw a lot of time on the offensive line, so a few on the East will find themselves playing somewhat new positions while the offense tries to get the ball to a host of running backs and receivers.

“We’re going to try to make it real easy and just say you’re going to come off the ball, you’re going to block the guy in front of you and you’re going to drive him 10 yards down the road, and give it to your athletes and let them run. And we’ll throw the ball around a little bit and have some fun,” he said.

“It’s going to be an experience,” Ziegler said.

The West has linemen and receivers, but Hite said true running backs are a bit scarce and there’s a big question mark when it comes to who will play quarterback.

However, he said the coaches and players should sort out the challenges over the next few days.

“We’re excited. We just got to meet the guys on [June 9 for pictures] …, we haven’t had an opportunity to see them all pad up and see what they’re able to do; some of them let us know what they think they’re capable of,” he said to laughter. “We’ll be real excited to get them out there on the field and start playing together.”

“Try to play to our strengths once we figure them out,” Hite added

Keeping players excited won’t be difficult, the coaches said.

“Competitive juices flow. That’s the thing,” Ziegler said. “We want to have fun, you want to go out there and have a good time, but in the grand scheme of things, you’re competing. Kids compete, they want to win.”