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East/West Classic has county presence

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

For some, it will be the last time they don pads and cleats. For others, it’s an opportunity to knock off some rust and dish out contact before heading off to college.

For all the players in Friday’s Indiana Football Hall of Fame East-West Classic in Anderson, it will be an honorable way to end their high school careers.

Players have to be seniors and nominated by their high school coaches to be considered and the selection process began in February.

A dozen Grant County players representing three schools made the West All-Star roster, and 11 will be in uniform when the ball is teed up at 7 p.m. on the Anderson High School Field. Admission is $10 and all proceeds from the game are used to support the Indiana Football Hall of Fame. 

“I think we have 17 kids out of the 42 (West players) that are going to go on and play at the next level. For a majority of these kids this is going to be it as far as football goes,” said West coach and Marion assistant Mark Hartman.

“This is going to be the last game they’ll probably ever play. We kind of point that out to them and then we throw in the fact that there is going to be college coaches there and in NAIA and Division III, they can kind of have an unlimited roster so go out and show yourself and maybe that will pique the interest of a coach.

“I think last this is a big fundraiser, I think the only fundraiser for the Indiana Football Hall of Fame, which kind of operates on a shoestring budget so it’s good to get as many people out there and get as many kids as we can involved,” Hartman added.

Hartman has been a coach in the East/West game for the last four years and knew what to expect from players when practices started Sunday. Coaches and players get just five days to prepare and early in the week the lack of much physical activity was evident. Hartman said that won’t matter once the game starts.  

“Take in the fact the sweltering heat we’ve had along with a lot of them probably haven’t done a whole lot, those first few days they were gasping for air,” Hartman said. “Most of these kids are probably two-way kids at their schools, they’re that good of an athlete. We won’t be being doing a whole of that. (Players) only have to play one (position) and if we’ve got multiple players at that position, their reps are going to be limited so take advantage of the opportunity when we call your number.”

Marion had four players selected to the West team, but only three will be in uniform as Zach Randolph will have to tend to a prior commitment. Sam Vermilion will handle all the kicking duties for the West while Manual Davis will split reps at center and Darrell Brown will play at inside linebacker. 

Mississinewa’s sectional champions will be represented by Jay Jones on the West defense and Dustin Patton who will rotate in to a guard position on offense.

The other six county spots belong to Eastbrook graduates. The Panthers could have offensive linemen Jeffery Duckwall, Matthew Hollars, Jake Taylor and Gabe Sizemore all blocking for the West’s skill players. Fullback Davon Wallace and linebacker Christian Bratcher are also sure to play roles.

“I think we’ve got practically Eastbrook’s entire offensive line, which is a good thing,” Hartman said. “They’ve had some tremendous success the last few years and they’re really good kids that really get after it.”

Hartman likes the way has team has competed during the limited practice sessions and is sure that will translate to the game. The 90-minute practices have gone without fundamental and conditioning portions so they’ve been dedicated to strictly game planning. 

“Just in the competition we’ve had with our team, it’s been stellar. They’re all competitors and they’ve all succeeded,” Hartman said. “Typically the criteria to be in this (game) is you have to be all conference, all area, team MVP, things like that. So they’re all solid players that have done well in football so we don’t have to teach them how to tackle and block.

“That’s one of the advantages of this, we just work on scheme the entire week,” he continued. “They’re probably going to have to knock the rust off right there at first, but I’m sure once we start playing football it will all be the same for them.”

One area of slight concern for Hartman is the West team has only one quarterback, Travis McGuire from Frankton. Hartman will have Southwood’s all-state wide receiver Peyton Trexler at his disposal. Trexler was second on the Knights’ depth chart at QB behind Carson Blair and Hartman didn’t rule out the Marian University-bound Trexler from taking a few snaps, especially in a pinch. 

“I think skill wise we’ve got some real weapons, most years we’ll end up having three or so quarterbacks. It’s an odd year in that we have only one quarterback so he’ll be taking all the snaps,” Hartman said. “With Trexler’s athleticism we’re going to use him in a couple of capacities as far as quarterback as well...We’re going to try and put in a little bit of a game plan that we’re going to use him at (quarterback). It’s also going to be a safety thing where if our quarterback goes down we can still compete.”