BETHANY - There's a cliche that says sports are an extension of the classroom.
Despite graduating just over two months ago, River High's duo of Nick Asturi and Evan Eggleston have felt like they're sitting in a classroom this week as they prepare for Sunday's 68th annual Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Charity Football Classic.
Unlike most years, there were more than just the players from Shadyside who came to camp having a good idea of what to expect from head coach Mark Holenka.
PICTURED ARE the members of the Ohio backfield for Sunday’s 68th annual Rudy Mumley OVAC?All-Star Charity Football Classic. Kneeling, from left, are Matt Kinnick (St. Clairsville), Chase Kinemond (Shadyside) and Teryn Jarrett (Beallsville). Standing, from left, are Chris Graziani (Edison), Nick Asturi (River), Daniel Lattanzio (Beaver Local), Brooks Ramsey (Shadyside) and Dashon Redman (Steubenville).
Both Asturi and Eggleston sat through several classes at River with Holenka as their teacher. Holenka taught health and physical education for more than 30 years in Hannibal and just retired after this past school year ended.
Though they never played for him like Ohio teammates Ian Baker, Brooks Ramsey, Cody Hudson and Chase Kinemond did, Holenka almost finds himself counting those guys right with his former Tiger players.
"It's the closest thing to having your own kids from Shadyside because I know them so well," Holenka said. "I'm able to relate to those guys and talk to them almost just like I do the guys here from Shadyside. I guess you could say that if the guys from Shadyside are my sons, Nick and Evan are like my step sons."
Both Asturi and Eggleston came to camp last Sunday not knowing what to expect from Holenka in terms of his demeanor on the practice field.
However, having seen him in class day after day allowed them to get an idea of what to expect.
"He's actually a little more strict in the classroom," Asturi said. "But, when we get out on the practice field, he acts different. He still gets after it pretty good."
Eggleston echoed Asturi's thoughts on Holenka's personality.
"I would say it's only about five percent or so more intense around football than it was in the classroom," Eggleston said. "He would never mess around in class. It was always high intensity, wanting everyone to do their best and be involved."
Asturi, who is headed to play football at West Virginia Wesleyan after an all-Ohio senior season for the Pilots, really enjoyed Holenka's teaching methods, especially in gym.
"He let us go all out," Asturi smiled. "He's a good teacher. I really liked all of my classes with him."
Eggleston was always able to tell from just talking to Holenka that he was well versed on a lot of topics.
"He knows what he's talking about both in the classroom and on the practice field," Eggleston said. "I had a feeling that his football coaching style would be like the way he was as a teacher. I've already been yelled at a few times. He's not messing around."
Eggleston was selected as an all-Ohioan multiple times during his career on the offensive line. He's been working at a bevy of spots in camp this week.
Knowing Holenka as well as they did eased the transition process a bit for the Pilots' duo.
"We were with him four years of high school, so basically, it felt like we were part of the (Ohio) team already with him as the head coach," Eggleston said. "This has been a great week both with the other guys and the coaches."
The players in the OVAC All-Star Game learn of their selection in the spring, but even after receiving their notification that they'd been chosen, neither Asturi nor Eggleston really approached Holenka about what to expect.
Asturi knew, however, what not to expect.
"I knew that just because we knew him that we'd be entitled to anything," Asturi said. "We still had to work hard and prove ourselves to be able to get a lot of playing time on Sunday."
THE QUEEN of Queens pageant is this evening at WesBanco Arena in downtown Wheeling. Nineteen candidates will take part with the hopes of winning a scholarship on Sunday evening at halftime. New to the Queen of Queens this year is an interview question. The players and coaches will attend the pageant.
THE CHEERLEADERS reported to Bethany College on Thursday to begin their preparations. They, along with the band, will perform their routines on Saturday evening at the annual pep rally.
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