Henry Clay, the Great Compromiser, would be proud of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association.
The group devised its own “great compromise” Sunday evening and decided to keep its affiliation with the Big 33 Classic, which pits Ohio versus Pennsylvania each year in Hershey, Pa.
Uncertainty arose when the Big 33 announced, beginning in 2006, that it was moving its game to late June. That put it in direct conflict with Ohio’s North-South Classic, the longest running high school all-star game in the country.
Steve Channell, the 2005 Ohio Big 33 head coach, and future president of the Ohio Football Coaches Association, was more than happy everything was able to be worked out.
“We voted Sunday night in Columbus – as a state coaches association – to continue participating in the Big 33 game,” Channell said. “We’re going to do that for next year and then take it one year at a time. We’ll see how it works out next year with the timeframe and us putting together three teams: the North, South, plus the Big 33 team.
“So, what we have to do now is figure out our selection process. Both games will be played on the same weekend in late June in all actuality.”
One idea would be to send Ohio’s “A” team to Hershey, and leave the “B” team at home to play in the North-South game.
“Well, I wouldn’t refer to it that way,” Channell said. “We think there is enough talent in Ohio to make up three outstanding teams. We still have to go through – as a coaches association – how we will do the selection process. But the big decision has already been made and that’s we will continue to be a part of the Big 33 game.”
Channell admits it didn’t look good there for a while. The Big 33 game is such a positive event and Ohio did not want to drop out, but it looked like it might have no choice. Until the compromise was made to form three teams.
“It was a roller coaster, up and down,” Channell said. “At times it looked like we’d be back; at other times, it looked questionable. But in the end, the coaches association agreed that in our best interest and the kids that play football in Ohio’s best interest to maintain our position in the Big 33 game. It was a unanimous vote across the board.”
As for the 2005 game, a 34-28 win by Ohio (the Buckeye State’s third straight win in the series), it included plenty of excitement and controversy.
“They scored that long touchdown on the first play of the game and we were thinking, ‘Oh my God, what’s going on here.’ But we felt we could score as well,” Channell said. “We knew we had a pretty talented group offensively. And that next nine or 10 minutes we put up four scores really quick and you’re thinking this is going to be an unexpected game (Ohio took a 28-7 first quarter lead). But I knew in the back of my mind that Pa. was going to get back in the game.”
Rob Schoenhoft was named Ohio’s MVP. The future OSU quarterback was 11 of 20 for 267 yards, including two touchdowns and one interception. He came out on fire and has the makings of a big-time QB.
“I had a good feeling that he was going to have a big game for us,” Channell said. “He came into the game, coming off the North-South game, down a little bit based on the North-South performance. He didn’t have a stellar game, but there were a lot of variables that surrounded that.
“During the week of practice in Hershey, he was great and I knew he would be fine. He went out and played a great game. It did not surprise me at all.”
Channell was also impressed with cornerback Andre Amos, another future Buckeye.
“Andre, to me, was one of the best players on the field,” he said. “He was a kid that I thought throughout the week really showed up all week long. And then his performance Saturday night really solidified everything. He’s a really solid performer and a guy that is going to be ready for Ohio State. I think they got a good kid there. I know some others have more accolades, but Andre is outstanding. He made several plays in the secondary and was on all of our special teams.”
Other future Ohio State players that stood out were defensive end Lawrence Wilson and receiver Brian Hartline.
“Lawrence, I thought had a real good game,” Channell said. “I was focused so much on the secondary play, I still haven’t seen the game yet, but I know Lawrence made some big plays for us. Recovered a fumble, helped force an interception and got a big sack late.
“Brian Hartline, I think he’s one of the fastest, most-skilled receivers I’ve seen. And the thing I love most about him is all through the week, on every drill, every route, he goes 100 percent all the time. There’s times in the week I would say, ‘Brian, you’ve got to pull back a little bit.’ But he’s such a hyped-up kid and wants to go 100 miles an hour all the time and I just got to really appreciate the kind of effort that he puts forth on every single play.”
Non-Ohio State players that Channell was impressed with included Michigan WR Mario Manningham, Pittsburgh cornerback Bryan Williams, Michigan State running back Javon Ringer and MSU DE/OLB Brandon Long.
“Mario is an electrifying player,” Channell said. “I think he has the chance to be a player pretty early at Michigan. And I really think Bryan Williams is an outstanding player.”
Towards the end of the Big 33 game, there was controversy when Ohio was called for using an illegal safety on an interception by Brad Jones. It would have sealed the game, but the Keystone State was given another chance.
“That was a tough call,” Channell said. “I thought they totally screwed that up; that’s what I was so upset about it. I knew what they threw the flag on was totally false. You’ve got to be careful on the political side of it, but I didn’t think that was a good call.
“And they tried to change in mid-argument what they were calling. And that’s why I delayed it so long: I wanted to talk to the moderator that made the call. So, they said, ‘Well, you’ve already been warned.’ And that ticked me off because we had never been warned.
“And number two, Brad Jones, the kid from Canton McKinley who was in the secondary, we put him at linebacker all week on third-and-long to get more speed at the linebacker spot, because that kid has to cover someone out of the backfield. That’s exactly what happened. They ran a guy down the sidelines out of the backfield and Brad ran with him, which was his responsibility, and they called the flag and said he was lined up in the secondary. He probably played eight or line times at linebacker in the game in those situations and they come to that key situation where he picks the ball off… as soon as they threw the flag I knew exactly what they were going to call and I was so ticked. But everything worked out and we were able to hang on.”
For Channell, it might have been the last game he coaches in 2005. He is the athletic director and head football coach at Trenton Edgewood in Butler County, but the school is fighting to keep athletics. Football could be cut this year, unless an emergency levy passes Tuesday evening.
“We have a vote tonight and we’re optimistic,” Channell said. “If it passes, we’re going to have practice tonight under the lights. Hopefully we’ll have that opportunity. And if it doesn’t pass, our district has already decided there will be no pay-for-play, and there will be no extra-curriculars.
“This is our fifth attempt at trying to pass the levy. It’s the only thing on the ballot today. It’s one issue, one community vote and I feel pretty positive that our community is going to step forward and get this thing done right now. We’ve had a lot of people in our community working on it and we’re all hoping it will pass.”