For the second year in a row, the Ohio North-South All-Star Classic football game will be played the day before Ohio State’s spring football game. For the third year in a row, the contest will be at Ohio Stadium.
Suiting up for the North squad on April 22 will be defensive linemen Steve Miller of Canton McKinley and Chase Farris of Elyria, cornerbacks DerJuan Gambrell of Toledo Whitmer and Doran Grant of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and wide receiver Devin Smith of Massillon Washington.
Opposing them on the South team will be Westerville Central tight end Nick Vannett.
“It’s a great honor to be able to play in this game,” said Farris, who made the trip down from Elyria to Columbus for a luncheon Thursday. “I think it will be pretty cool. It gives us another chance to bond with each other before we have to report.”
Added Miller, “It feels great to be selected and I’m excited for all my people to see me play at Ohio Stadium again.”
Most of the players on both rosters will be playing in Ohio Stadium for the first time, but that is not the case for Miller. He and his fellow Bulldogs dominated Huber Heights Wayne 26-0 at the Horseshoe in week two of last season.
“It’s fun. It’s a nice feeling,” Miller said of playing there. “It’s real big.”
Having standout defensive players with Ohio State pedigrees could be a significant advantage for the North considering the rules call for an extremely vanilla defensive game plan.
Teams must use a 5-2 alignment and all five linemen must rush the quarterback on passing plays.
North coach Dick Angle of Warren Howland said he expects Miller to play a stand-up end position similar to a 3-4 outside linebacker while Farris will play one of the down-lineman positions.
Gambrell and Grant will likely play a lot of man coverage in the secondary, and Smith can look forward to trying to win one-on-one matchups when the North has the ball.
On the flip side, Vannett may get a chance to show his stuff in matchups against linebackers.
“It’s a great experience,” said Angle, who has coached in the game before. “It’s the oldest game, and it will be a lot of run. It means a lot, and we’re looking forward to being a balanced team. We don’t have a lot of practice time so of course we’re going to be very simple but when you have great players that simplicity is what you want anyway.”
South coach Jason Krause, who spent the past three seasons as head coach at Middletown before recently accepting the same position at Fairfield, is looking forward to it as well. He expressed gratitude to Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel for helping facilitate the move of the game from June to April and getting it coordinated with the annual Ohio High School Football Coaches Association clinic.
He is looking forward to coaching a game at the Old Gray Lady of the Olentangy, too.
“Ohio Stadium is the pinnacle if you’re a high school football player in Ohio,” Krause said. “I know all these guys are going to go somewhere and play but as a young kid you grow up obviously dreaming of running out of that tunnel at Ohio State and they’re going to get to do that.”
Other notable players selected for the game include on the North squad Cleveland Glenville alumni linebacker Andre Sturdivant, offensive lineman Aundrey Walker and receiver Shane Wynn, Ohio Mr. Football winner running back Akise Teague of Youngstown Ursuline, quarterback Connor Cook of Walsh Jesuit and offensive lineman Chase Hounshell of Mentor Lake Catholic.
Headlining the South team is Cincinnati Colerain linebacker Jarrett Grace, Finneytown offensive lineman Donavan Clark, Steubenville linebacker Shaq Petteway and Cincinnati Moeller defensive lineman Jesse Hayes.
The North leads the all-time series 38-24-3, but the South won last season 23-20.
Ohio State recruit Verlon Reed of Columbus Marion-Franklin scored the eventual game-winning touchdown and was named Most Valuable Player of the game.