Connor relishes OVAC experience
WHEELING – Andrew Connor was like a kid in a candy store all of last week.
The personable and highly successful Indian Creek head football coach says he has waited 17 years to coach in the OVAC Rudy Mumley Charity Football Classic.
Connor got his chance Saturday night at Wheeling Island Stadium. He did not waste the opportunity.
Connor stressed from the time his players checked in at Bethany College eight days ago that his emphasis was on the winning the game.
He wanted his players to have an enjoyable time but he put paramount emphasis on winning. According to his players, he stressed that repeatedly. His Buckeyes didn’t let him down. Far from it, exhibiting game-long resiliency.
Ohio pulled out a 21-17 verdict, courtesy of a late touchdown pass from Meadowbrook’s Davis Black to St. Clairsville’s Craig Bober. The scoring connection covered 28 yards and was set up by a defensive back-biting pump fake by Black.
That aerial game-winner helped Ohio overcome a brilliant performance by West Virginia’s De’Vaughn McWhorter. The Wheeling Park product was nothing short of sensational, rushing for 102 yards on just four carries. He scored on runs of 76 and 25 yards. He also landed three passes.
“We knew he (McWhorter) was an excellent player, and when you put athletes on the field like him in an all-star game anything can happen,” Connor said Sunday in a phone interview while taking a break from mowing his lawn. “But we felt we outworked them all week and did things the right way. Once we made the goal-line stand when they got down to our 2-yard line we felt the tide turned in our favor.
“I told the kids at halftime (deadlocked at 14-14) that all the hard work we put in all week put us in the position to win this game. We showed a lot of toughness in the second half,” he added. “I was so happy for our players. They did everything I asked them to do all week. I was just hoping that I did all I could do for us to win.”
Putting an all-star roster together is no easy task. Connor, however, did it masterfully. He selected players from 19 schools.
“We put a lot of thought and effort to putting this team together. It wasn’t an easy process,” the Steubenville Catholic grad noted. “The kids really bonded well. The camaraderie was great. So much so, they didn’t leave the locker room till an hour or so after the game. They really liked each other and are also planning a get-together next week. They asked me to take part.”
Connor was highly complimentary of OVAC officials for the superb nature of the event.
“The week was everything I thought it would be and more. People don’t understand all the things that go on behind the scenes,” Connor noted. “The OVAC is a first-class operation. They treat the kids unbelievably well. It was a tremendous experience.”
BUBBA’S OVAC BITS
THE GAME was made even sweeter for Connor as his son, Zach, served as one of his assistants. Zach previously played in the game. In addition, Connor was able to coach four of his players from this past season’s OVAC 5A champion squad.
I THOUGHT Brady Kolb was a deserving choice as the game’s MVP. The St. Clairsville running back was a man amongst boys in the fourth quarter, finishing the night with 102 yards and a 28-yard TD on 24 totes.
THE MCDONALD’S All-Star Band turned in another spectacular performance. The band totaled 137 members from 16 schools. Ben McPherson was the director.
JOYCE JINGLE deserves many kudos for putting together another splendid Queen of Queens Pageant.
THERE are 51 schools currently in the OVAC. Thirty-nine were represented in the all-star game in some fashion.
IN 49 years, the OVAC Rudy Mumley All-Star Football Game has donated more than $954,000 to charitable organizations and scholarships throughout the Ohio Valley.
NATALIE MOUSOURAKIS of Toronto and Kylee Kowalo-Bologna of Madonna directed the cheering squads.
TWO DIRKS are better than one. Dirk DeCoy and Dirk Fitch made their maiden voyages with running the OVAC All-Star Game a successful venture. DeCoy is the new OVAC executive director while Fitch served as game director. Both did yeoman and superb work. Fitch took over for longtime game director Bob Koch who was dealing with medical issues.
WITH ITS second straight win, Ohio now leads the all-time series 44-29-1.
I HAVE witnessed OVAC All-Star football games far too numerous to count. But undoubtedly the best squad in my mind is Ohio’s 1979 team coached by Dave Bruney. The Buckeyes rolled, 47-13. The Ohio team featured such stars as Tim Spencer, Dave Delman, Fitch, Stacey Agnew, Mike Monteleone and the Brown twins from Jefferson Union to name just a few of the performers.