TERRE HAUTE —
Faithful readers of the Tribune-Star might peruse the rosters for today’s Wabash Valley Football Coaches Association All-Star Game and figure the Black squad is the favorite in the 7:30 p.m. game at Memorial Stadium.
The WVFCA is a far-flung operation, however — from Mattoon to Ellettsville, from Clayton to Charleston, from Roachdale to Olney, from Cayuga to Elnora — and is expanding on virtually a yearly basis. With some of the Gold team’s key players coming from North Putnam and Mattoon, neither team covered by this newspaper, the game could turn out closer than those readers think.
“It’s been good, a good week of practice,” coach Steve Weber of Linton and the Gold team said. “We got a lot [of offensive and defensive schemes] in.”
“It’s been a great week,” agreed coach Todd Burgess of South Putnam and the Black team. “Spending this much time with this good [a bunch of] coaches and players … I learn how little I do know.”
An obvious strength of the Black team is its running backs. Two of the four Indiana State recruits in this game — Tyler Evans of Terre Haute South and Andre Strohm of Marshall — are in a four-way battle for the position that also includes South Putnam’s Rob Gibson and Lawrenceville’s Tanner Volkman. “That’s four pretty good ones,” Burgess confirmed.
A few carries might also be found for Northview slotback Damon Hyatt, with quarterbacks Jacob Duncan of Marshall and Zach Lyday of North Central having receiving targets available that also include West Vigo’s Cody Thornton and Marshall’s Rodney Troutman and Taylor Sanders, among others.
The Gold team’s spread offense will be run by Mattoon’s Shaunesy Carlen and North Putnam’s Kolten Everts, Weber said. Carlen has two of his high school teammates — Jake Gates and Zack Myers — in addition to Turkey Run’s Matt Loudermilk to hand off to, but Everts also has familiarity with the backfield because two potential slotbacks, Tyler Shorter and Jake Smerage, are also former Cougars. Gates, Shorter and Strohm, in some order, are probably the three fastest players on the field tonight.
A third ISU recruit in the game is Terre Haute North’s Dakota Vermillion, who figures to anchor the offensive line for the Gold team and give Carlen and Everts time to throw to a list of receivers that includes North Vermillion’s Lane Clark, Linton’s Brad Thomas, Sullivan’s Ryan Vernelson and possibly Casey’s Colin Carver and Rockville’s Cody Jeffries.
Defensively the fourth future Sycamore, South’s Tsali Lough, figures to be one of the anchors for the Black team along with linebacker Chris Creek of Charleston. South’s Enreque Brown and Marshall’s Jared Boyll are other strong linebackers, but the defensive line isn’t quite as deep, meaning plenty of work for West Vigo’s Ben Bird and Harley Elkins, Northview’s Chance Talbot and Greencastle’s Levi App.
Defenders who have looked good for the Gold team have been North Putnam linebacker Nate Bryan; linemen Michel McKinney of Mattoon, Hunter Logan of North Putnam, Pat McCown of Casey and Blake Scharbrough of Linton; and safety Heath Huisinga of Casey.
The two teams have completed a week of practice in some of the most oppressive temperatures the WVFCA all-stars have had to face, and made it through without a whimper.
“The heat was fine,” Weber said. “[The players] are tired, but there are no heat problems. They all came in in good shape.”
Tonight’s game will enable the WVFCA to surpass the $25,000 mark in scholarships passed out to all-star participants. As in past year’s, there will be WVFCA/Pete Varda Sr. Hall of Fame Scholarships voted on by the players themselves; Coaches Pick scholarships to players on each team sponsored by Sir Thomas Automotive; and the Brett Eitel Memorial Scholarship based on academic performance.
Tickets are available at the gate. Players in the game include representatives from almost all of the 35 schools with WVFCA membership.