The rosters have been set.
The coaches are named.
Now, event organizers are looking to build off the success of last year’s inaugural Pasco County all-star football game.
The 2016 Pasco County East-West Classic is slated for Dec. 8 at 7 p.m., at Sunlake Field, 3023 Sunlake Blvd., in Land O’ Lakes.
A total of 80 players — all seniors— representing each of Pasco’s 15 high schools were selected in a “draft day” format last month.
Players on the East team will represent Land O’ Lakes, Wiregrass Ranch, Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills, Pasco, Bishop McLaughlin and Zephyrhills Christian Academy.
Players on the West team will represent River Ridge, Ridgewood, Mitchell, Anclote, Hudson, Fivay, Gulf and Sunlake.
The game, organized by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), had a strong showing in its first year, with nearly 2,000 fans in attendance.
“Last year, being the first time, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Bob Durham, FCA area director. “It was very exciting, and all the events went well.”
The game went so well, in fact, the Pasco County school district has asked the FCA to organize all-star showcase games for other sports, such as baseball, basketball and soccer.
First up: a Pasco County all-star baseball game in May 2017.
“They want us to do a lot of different sports, and we’re honored by the offer,” Durham said. “We just said to them we’re happy to do it…and let’s just take our time and do one sport at a time.”
The idea for a countywide all-star football game was spearheaded by Durham, upon the suggestion of Pasco Area FCA board of directors, who pointed to the success of long-established all-star games in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
Durham said high school football coaches in Pasco tried to create an all-star showcase for more than a decade, but plans never materialized, due to constant personnel changes countywide.
For various reasons, it never was executed, he said.
The game, Durham said, gives high school seniors one last chance to perform in front of college recruiters, many of whom attend the game from all across the southeast region.
“A lot of these guys are looking at Division II, or Division III schools. Some have Division I potential, but most are DII or DIII,” Durham explained. “Their season’s over, their playoffs are done, and they get one more game to showcase themselves.”
Wiregrass Ranch head coach Mark Kantor said the game is especially important for players on teams that didn’t advance to the playoffs.
“It gives kids the opportunity for another game to be put on their highlight reel,” Kantor said. “In a setting like this with other good players, it’s always good for them.”
Zephyrhills head coach Nick Carroll said the annual all-star game is “a very good thing” for Pasco County.
“We’ve started a tradition,” Carroll said. “It exposes Pasco County and the best play in it, so…we’re able to show the talent we do have, at different positions.”
Carroll added: “Hopefully we got some recruiters in town…and playing against other top talent throughout the county, it will hopefully shoot (players) up the recruiting boards for colleges.”
Meanwhile, Durham said Sunlake Field might possibly be the permanent home for future Pasco all-star football games.
“It’s such an ideal location in the middle of the county,” he said. “We’ll talk about it, and I’ll just open it up to the coaches, and have them decide it.”
Tickets for the game are $10. For information, visit PascoAllStarGame.com.
Land O’ Lakes
Larry Dalla Betta
Mike Frump (Land O’ Lakes)
Tony Egan (Wesley Chapel)
Nick Carroll (Zephyrhills High)
Tom McHugh (Pasco High)
Josh Ballinger (Zephyrhills Christian Academy)
Mark Kantor (Wiregrass Ranch)
Tico Hernandez (Bishop McLaughlin)
Matt Kingsley (Anclote)
Justin Fenton (Mitchell)
Gary Allen (River Ridge)
Jay Fulmer (Ridgewood)
John Krupp (Gulf)
Matt Smith (Sunlake)
Matt Durchik (Fivay)
Rob Mahler (Hudson)
Published November 16, 2016