Another Wabash Valley Football Coaches Association All-Star Game has come and gone.
And this most recent edition was certainly a good one.
Unfortunately the “Bad Guys,” A.K.A. the Black All-Star squad won this one 32-28 over the “Good Guys,” the Gold All-Stars featuring seven Eastern Greene Thunderbirds and three Linton Miners. The Gold Stars were coached by outgoing Eastern Greene coach Joey Paridaen, who was recently hired as head football coach at Evansville North. Paridaen’s successor Travis Wray was also on the Gold coaching staff as one of the assistants.
With just over two minutes remaining Owen Valley quarterback Daniel Burkett connected with Olney (Ill.) receiver Braxton Burgener on a 49-yard touchdown strike lifting the Black All-Stars to the victory.
Burkett and Burgener also hooked up on a 12-yard scoring toss just before halftime.
The Gold squad had battled back from a two-score deficit, taking a 28-26 lead on Caleb Hamilton’s 45-yard TD jaunt just a little over four minutes into the final period. The former Eastern field general juked left, got a good lead block, cut back and burst up the middle and left the defenders grasping in his wake.
The Gold defense then forced two punts and seemed poised for a third key stop to seal the win. The Black faced a fourth-and-8 when Burkett found Burgener wide open streaking down the left sideline.
My colleague Andrew Bowen commented Saturday’s All-Star Game was a better game than he expected. Understandable, because All-Star games sometimes tend to degenerate into loosely-played, undisciplined shootouts with little to no defense being played.
As a point of reference, watch the NFL Pro Bowl or the NBA All-Star Game sometime (that is, if you can stand it, and you have absolutely nothing else to do.)
Granted, the defenses in this All-Star game tend to be “vanilla.” A coaching staff has less than a week to install a defensive scheme so they stick with basic sets and formations.
Still, the games I’ve been to have all been competitive.
The first one I attended in 2015 was even closer. The Gold All-Stars scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 4-yard option pass with 24 seconds remaining to win 24-21.
Unfortunately, I was rooting for the Black All-Star squad, with three Linton Miners and coach Brian Oliver as one of the assistants.
The next two weren’t as close. The Gold lost 28-7 in 2016 and the Black squad came out on the short end of a 26-14 score in the 2017 game.
Both teams were coached by Oliver. The 2016 Gold All-Stars featured six Linton Miners and seven Miners suited up for the Black in 2017.
I’m beginning to see a trend here.
All four All-Star games I’ve attended, the team I’ve had a “rooting interest” in has lost. Perhaps I should stay away.
I’m only kidding of course. It would be ludicrous for me to think my mere presence on the sideline could influence the outcome of a sporting event.
Besides, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I thoroughly enjoy the All-Star Game and the entire All-Star week leading up to it.
With that said, I can’t give enough thanks to the folks responsible for putting on this annual midsummer showcase of the best graduating senior gridiron talent in the Wabash Valley.
Saturday’s game was the 14th annual WVFCA All-Star bash.
Kudos to the Wabash Valley Football Coaches Association and its president Greg Barrett; All-Star Game Director Tom Jones; corporate sponsors including First Financial; and Pete Varda and Rene Foli, among others, who have funded scholarships awarded to individual players; and to Indiana State University for allowing the use of Memorial Stadium for the game and the week of practices leading up to it.
That newly-installed Field Turf at Memorial Stadium was nice! Caleb Hamilton is going to love playing on that surface this fall as an ISU Sycamore.
Incidentally Hamilton was a double winner in the scholarship presentation category. He was awarded both the prestigious Varda scholarship and the Foli scholarship.
I’m supposed to be impartial and objective. But this is, after all, an opinion column.
And Caleb Hamilton was an absolute stud in this game.
The future Sycamore completed 10-of-16 passes for 191 yards and one touchdown and rushed 11 times for 65 yards and two scores.
The stat line doesn’t even begin to tell the story. On his TD pass, the Gold faced a third-and-16 at its own 28. Caleb threaded the needle between two defenders. The ball flew over 50 yards on a clothesline, through the outstretched arms of the cover men and into the hands of his receiver, who snagged it and sprinted home.
Kid’s got an arm. After Wednesday’s practice concluded I watched Caleb heaving spirals 65 yards in the air from the opposite 40-yard line into the end zone on the fly.
His 46-yard completion and 8-yard run set up his burst from a yard out to give the Gold a 7-6 lead in the second quarter.
And we already mentioned his 45-yard scoring dash to give the Gold its final lead.
He literally did all he could to will his team to win. And as the late Keith Jackson said in the Gatorade commercials, “The legend continues.”
Alas, somebody has to lose. And for our two protagonists Burkett and Burgener it was their One Shining Moment (to borrow a worn cliche from the NCAA basketball championship game) in their final high school game.
Neither will be going on to play college football, at any level. As is the case for the majority of the players in the WVFCA All-Star Game, every year.
Which is why I highlighted the three Eastern Greene players – J.W. Howard, Joel Weimer and Hamilton – in one of my features during All-Star week.
Howard will be playing this fall at Rose Hulman, Weimer at Franklin College and Hamilton as previously mentioned will play at ISU.
Above all else, All-Star week is a fun week for everyone involved.
Every player I’ve talked to over the years mentions the camaraderie, the friendships made, the lasting memories – and the fun.
“It’s a great experience to be a part of,” as Paridaen said. “I think the kids will have memories of a lifetime from this. These guys have probably made some lifelong friends.”
Paridaen noted nearly three-fourths of the Gold team spent Friday night at Dakota Caton’s house in Sullivan.
It was really neat to see the kids from Eastern Greene, Linton, North Central and Sullivan hanging out together, joking and laughing and just generally having fun. There is no love lost between any of the four during football season. But they all bonded, uniting for a common cause as All-Star teammates.
It’s also a fun week for the sportswriter.
Imagine – a whole week devoted entirely to football! We don’t get that during football season.
The timing couldn’t be better. Spring sports have since ended and All-Star week breaks up the summer doldrums.
And it whets the appetite for the upcoming football season.
Practice begins in a little over a month. Are you ready for some football?