N-S football game Saturday
INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- Call it an early start to the 2013 football season, or, perhaps more appropriately, a late farewell to the 2012 campaign, as about 70 of the state's best seniors from the fall season will put on the pads one more time Saturday for the annual North-South All-Star Football Classic.
Teams have been practicing all week at West Virginia State University in Institute, and will finally collide with each other under the lights at 7 p.m. at the University of Charleston/Laidley Field. Tickets are $8.
The South Cardinals, which include local players from Wayne, Huntington High, Cabell Midland, Hurricane, Winfield and Wahama, are coached by Joe Dean, head coach at Midland Trail. The North Bears are headed up by St. Marys coach Jodi Mote.
The game, steeped in tradition in the Mountain State, can be challenging for the coaches, who are tasked with bringing together players from a slew of different teams -- from Class AAA down to Class A -- and molding the group into a team.
"This is a really great group of kids, I can't overstate that enough," said Dean of the South squad. "They've done a good job of meshing together and it's great."
Although all-star games have lost some of their luster, especially at the professional level, there is a lot of pride on the line when it comes to the North-South Classic, as players are representing their schools and their region for the last time on the field.
"Anytime you're a competitor, anytime you play, whether it be marbles, tiddlywinks or football, you expect to win," Dean said. "It is a game and you want to win, and you want to do it with class. It's not a blood feud. These kids are friends and you want to go out there and win but after it's over you're friends again.
"I hope I've got 34 young men on Saturday night who are ready to go out and play a good game of football. To me, it's the greatest game in the world. What else would you rather do?"
Some players dropped hints about trick plays during media day Tuesday, but Dean said the challenge of getting all of his players on the same page is enough to occupy his time and that of his staff.
"We have an idea of what we want to do, we can't control what the North is going to do," he said. "We're kind of guessing and trying to prepare for anything."
The North-South game was first established in 1934, and lasted through 1955. It was re-established in 1976 and has continued since then. The South holds a 34-18 series lead in the event, with three ties. The South defeated the North last year, 36-28, in overtime.