All-star high school football is returning to Stark County this summer. And two members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Centennial Class of 2020 will be on hand to welcome it back.
The first Pro Football Hall of Fame East-West All-Star Football Game — featuring some of the county’s top graduated seniors — is set for July 23.
The game will kick off at 7 pm, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Also, a pair of Pro Football Hall of Famers will be honorary coaches in the game — Donnie Shell (East) and Isaac Bruce (West).
The East-West game was contested annually from 1990-2019 and sponsored by The Canton Repository before being canceled the past two years because of COVID-19. Over the first 30 games in the series, the East and West each have won 15 times.
The head coaches for the game will be Sandy Valley’s Brian Gamble for the East and Green’s Mark Geis for the West. They each guided their teams to the state playoffs a year ago, with Geis’ Green Bulldogs reaching a Division II state semifinal where he lost to eventual champion Winton Woods.
Two other area head coaches who guided their teams to the playoffs last fall will be assistant coaches in the game — Brian Baum of Hoover (East) and AJ Sarbaugh of Fairless (West). Rounding out the coaching staffs will be Tim Goodman of Alliance and Brian Reidenbach of Sandy Valley for the East, and Eric Brock of Fairless and Ryan Murphy of Green for the West.
“The Pro Football Hall of Fame is proud to pick up the East-West All-Star Game and get seniors on the field with high classmates and new friends from schools start one more time before they the next chapters in their lives,” Hall President Jim Porter said in a statement released by the Hall. “And with Hall of Famers of the caliber of Isaac Bruce and Donnie Shell providing not only insight about how to play the game of football, but also about living a hall of fame life, this experience will create memories that will last a lifetime.
“The community is grateful for the Repository’s involvement with the game for the past 30 years. The Hall is honored to take the handoff and keep this event going.”
The East will feature players from Alliance, McKinley, East Canton, GlenOak, Louisville, Marlington, Minerva, Hoover and Sandy Valley.
The West will feature players from Central Catholic, Canton South, Fairless, Green, Jackson, Lake, Massillon, Northwest, Perry and Tuslaw.
Rosters, comprised of Class of 2022 graduates, will be finalized and announced soon.
2021 All-Stark County Football:All-Stark County high school football team selected by The Canton Repository
In addition to using Benson Stadium, the Hall said the Hall of Fame Village is allowing the practice fields adjacent to the stadium to be used by the teams for practices ahead of the game.
“We are thrilled to join the Pro Football Hall of Fame in continuing to deliver a first-class event for our Stark County football community,” said Kevin Tobin, co-director of the game with Ross Rankin, in a statement released by the Hall . “Including Pro Football Hall of Famers Donnie Shell and Isaac Bruce will be an incredible experience for the players.”
The week of practice leading up to the game will also include a kicking contest, a regular part of the event in the past, as well as the induction of the 2020 class of the Stark County High School Football Hall of Fame. That event was also canceled during the pandemic and no class has been selected since. The 2020 class features Lance Brick, Eric Heinzer, Larry Laursel, Josh McDaniels, Tim Powell, Herman “Bup” Rearick and Zach Slates.
The induction banquet is the evening of July 22 at the Nash Family Event & Conference Center at the Hall of Fame. The time of the banquet is to be determined. Bruce and Shell also will be attending that banquet.
Donnie Shell excites enshrinement crowd:Stadium gets loud when Donnie Shell gives Hall of Fame shout-out to ‘Steeler Nation’
Isaac Bruce unscripted at enshrinement:‘How do you like me now’: No script, no problem for enshrinee Isaac Bruce on Saturday
According to the Hall, Bruce and Shell will be involved with the game in a variety of ways. They will assist on the sidelines during the game, speak to the teams at the Player-Parent Dinner on July 21, and provide on-field instruction at the final practice July 22.
Tickets for the game will be $10 and are available at www.profootballhof.com/events/2022/07/east-west-all-star-game/.