Findlay’s Donnell Stadium, which has hosted an array of talented football players, from Heisman Trophy winners (Charles Woodson) to NFL all-pro standouts (Ben Roethlisberger, Orlando Pace) to scores of all-Ohio selections, will welcome another group of gridiron greats this weekend when the top prep players from Ohio and Michigan square off in the first annual Border Classic Football Game.
At least 14 Big Ten recruits will be among the 40 Michigan and 40 Ohio players selected to take part in the all-star contest, which gets under way at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Seventy-four of 2014 high school graduates have made commitments to Division I and Division II college programs.
Former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce will be the honorary captain for the contest. Mike Fell, former head coach at Columbus Grove and Ada and currently revitalizing Lima Senior’s program, will be in charge of the Ohio all-stars. His staff includes Tory Strock, former head coach at Leipsic and now at Napoleon.
The Ohio roster includes Patrick Henry’s Colt Pettit, a 6-foot-4, 260-pound lineman who has signed a national letter of intent to play for Virginia Tech.
Players from both sides will arrive in Findlay on Wednesday and begin the twice daily open practices leading up to Saturday’s game. A press conference kicking off the event will be held at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Donnell Middle School. An autograph session available to youth football players will be held Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Ohio has traditionally had two all-star game opportunities for its graduating seniors: the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association’s North/South Game (held April 26 in Dayton) and the Big 33 Classic, a match-up of Ohio and Pennsylvania all-stars held in Hershey, Pa.
Pennsylvania opted not to renew the contract after the 2013 game, though, replacing the Buckeyes with Maryland for the annual contest. Officials from the high school football coaching associations of Ohio and Michigan then got together and hammered out details for the Border Classic, which will be the first-ever high school all-star game involving football players from the neighboring states.
Proceeds from the game will benefit scholarship funds already established by the OHSFBCA and MHSFCA organizations.
With NCAA sanctions prohibiting colleges from hosting high school all-star games, Findlay became a logical choice for the Border Classic because it had a quality facility in Donnell Stadium, adequate housing for the players and staff at the University of Findlay, and I-75 access.
Tickets for the game are $5. Youth football players 12 and under wearing a team jersey or identifying T-shirt will be admitted free. Youth football coaches can obtain tickets before the game by contacting the Findlay Convention and Visitors Bureau at 419-422-3313.