CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – On Thursday, June 15th at Hubbard High School, the 33rd annual Jack Arvin All-Star football game will kickoff at 7:00 pm. The game is sponsored by the Mahoning County Coaches Association and will showcase senior graduates from 31 area highs schools. Invitations for player participants were sent out to 41 Trumbull, Mahoning, and Columbiana Columbiana County schools.
The Mahoning team will include 17 different schools, including 11 from Mahoning County and an additional 6 schools from Columbiana County. They will be coached by Michael Demster of United Local.
The team will consist of players from both the biggest schools of Division 1 and 2, down to the smallest schools in Division 7. Some of the biggest schools represented on the Mahoning team are Austintown Fitch in Division 1, and Boardman and East in Division 2, while Division 7 is represented by players from Wellsville, Lisbon, and Sebring.
Although the players may be from different sized schools and locations, the players themselves appreciate that they are all talented athletes.
“I don’t think it’s any different,” Boardman’s Koby Adu-Poku stated. “They’re still good athletes just like we are. Just because you come from a smaller school doesn’t mean that they are not as good. That’s how I feel.”
“I just want to try to put on a show for family and friends. Just to prove that a kid from a small school can do something big,” Sebring’s Nate Martin remarked. Sebring, which only has 60 boys in the high school has the distinction as the smallest school participating in the game.
“To compete with bigger schools and say he played in a small league, but then proves that a small league doesn’t matter or anything. So I just want to try to put on a show and do the best I can,” Martin added.
“There’s a lot more excitement, more fast paced,” Wellsville Michael Shope said of playing alongside players from bigger schools. “Basically this is what it’s going to be like in college, being with guys from D2, D1, from all levels. It’s truly a blessing to play in this with all of these guys and I’m very excited to get on the field with them.”
“It’s a little different because they’re from small schools, but it’s good to get a mix of everyone and see where everyone’s talent is coming from,” Boardman’s Travis Koontz contributed.
But perhaps more importantly, it’s taking kids from schools who have faced each other from opposite sidelines and now building new friendships. In the process, they have found how similar they really are.
“It’s the personalities,” Coach Demster explained. “It’s fun for us as coaches to watch all these different personalities come together and mesh. The kids who have been playing against each other for their whole life, who have not been friends during the regular season. But you see when they come together here and they tend to realize that they are exactly alike and they end up getting along really well. It’s fun, and it’s a fun opportunity.”
For the players like Shope, he found the opportunity to play in the game a great honor since he was a last-minute addition due to a roster cancelation, “First of all, it’s a blessing, that’s really what it is. I didn’t find out till late, so to get to do football for the summer is nice. It will get me in better shape.”
“It’s fun, it’s definitely something new,” Adu-Poku added. “Playing with all your rivals, enemies and stuff. So it’s definitely a new experience. Just being with all these other skilled athletes is fun and competitive.”
“It means a lot,” Koontz confirmed. “I feel like it proves (something) to be in an all-star game.”
For both Koontz and Adu-Poku, they will get the opportunity to face some former foes from Trumbull County such as Warren Harding, including standout player Lynn Bowden. The Raiders knocked off the Spartans by 31 points last year.
“We played a lot of them in the regular season already so it’s going to be good to get a re-match against them. It will be a good time,” Koontz said.
“It’s just another chance to go against them,” Adu-Poku added. “They are definitely good athletes so competing against them is definitely fun. It’s competitive, so another chance like this is something you can’t take for granted.”