Camp Opens for All-Star Game
BETHANY – There was an atmosphere of controlled chaos inside Bethany College’s Thomas P. Johnson Health and Recreation Center on Saturday morning.
There, members of the Ohio and West Virginia squads came through the doors with their baggage and other unmentionables in tow ready to take the first step in preparation for next Saturday’s 71st annual OVAC Rudy Mumley All-Star Football Classic.
Kickoff will be 7:15 p.m. at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Players, with the help of their parents, completed the check-in process with the help of OVAC game staff and then proceeded to get their equipment for the week and head to their quarters. Along the way, the conversed with their peers, many of whom have turned into, for at least this week, teammates instead of adversaries.
“It’s a busy day because everybody is meeting everybody,” Game Director Bob Koch said. “The players, who might’ve been met each other across the scrimmage line before, are now seeing each other as teammates, which is a little bit different for them.
“It’s a busy time, but it’s a fun time.”
And for the first time in many years, the players arrived to camp on a Saturday.
With the game being moved to a Saturday, all all-star week activities have been moved up a day.
“That’s probably harder on me than anyone because I’ve been doing it 15 years the other way,” Koch, the retired Cameron High School athletic director, said. “I’m used to thinking of things like having the pep rally on Saturday night. I have to change my frame of mind on everything up a day.
“I think, in the long run, it?ll be a lot better.”
Koch could be seen conversing with coaches, players and parents, trying to answer as many questions as possible. One of the coaches he spent a lot of time with was Chris Daugherty, West Virginia’s head coach, who’s leading the Mountaineers for the first time.
It’s fun and exciting,’ said Daugherty, who guided Wheeling Park to the West Virginia Class AAA championship last fall.
“You can feel the excitement in here. It’s just a fun atmosphere already. Hopefully, it’ll start setting down and we can start getting ready to play football.”
Tim Ickes, Park’s offensive line coach, served on Ian Whittington’s staff last summer, and is the only Park coach with all-star coaching experience. “Doc” used his input, along with other past coaches, to put together a plan for the week that will be both fun and productive.
“I picked the brains of other guys that’ve had the opportunity to coach in this game,” he said. “We want to stay flexible because this is our first time as a staff (coaching in the game). We don’t want to write everything in stone.
“So, we have the next few days planned our pretty well, and then we’re going to reevaluate.”
Like Daugherty, Ohio head coach Kevin Gunn, wants to work hard, but, at the same time, make it a fun week for his players and staff.
“It’s one of things where, first and foremost, you’re here to win,” the Cambridge High School head coach said. “But, you want to put them in the best position to win. It’s one of those things here we’re going to have fun and make the best of it.”
After months of seeing his players on paper, Gunn is eager to see his players in person.
“The excitement coming from their facial expressions is exhilarating,” he said. “They want to be here, or they wouldn’t have accepted the invitation.”
“I’m looking forward to them getting on the field and working with one another and bonding with one another.”
As is Daugherty, who views the game as the icing on the cake of a very successful year for his program.
“It’s kind of the cherry on top,” he said. “Everyone on our staff, minus two guys, grew up in the Ohio Valley. And the two that didn’t have been here long enough to know that this game is important.”