OVAC All-Star Game was a long-time goal for many
BETHANY — For some, it’s a dream! For many Ohio Valley prep football players it’s a goal.
For the 73 players in camp this week at Bethany College, it’s a reality.
The annual summer sporting spectacle — the OVAC Rudy Mumley All-Star Football Game — has been in the backs of the minds of the majority of the Ohio all stars since they first attended the game at some point in their youths.
Now, after four years of high school football, they’ll get one final chance to shine before closing the book on their prep careers when the 75th edition of the all-star game unfolds Saturday night at Wheeling Island Stadium.
“When you think of the great football players and coaches who have taken part in this game, it makes it even more special,” St. Clairsville product Tyler Tonkovich said.
Unlike many all-star games that are contested across sports at all levels, the players in the OVAC Game want to win in the worst way. Usually, it’s about the Ohio and West Virginia rivalry and the bragging rights that come with it when the players go off to college, come back in 10 years for their reunion and even see each other in the grocery store.
Tonkovich, who was a multiple-sport standout for the Red Devils and also played in the OVAC All-Star Baseball Game last month, looks at it even deeper than just the river that separates the two states.
“To reflect and play for those guys who played before us, your school and your own name makes it even more of an honor,” Tonkovich said. “Since I was little, I was looking forward to a chance to play in this game. To play in this game and be a part of it is awesome.”
Shadyside’s Jacob Visnic had hopes that he’d get the call to play on Team Ohio because of what it means.
“Only a select few get to be a part of this, so it’s a true honor to be a part of the game,” Visnic said.
Visnic, who was a multi-sport athlete for the Tigers, is headed to Marietta College next month to begin his collegiate career. He’s hoping to be able to use this week’s game as a tuneup and an opportunity to get the football juices flowing again.
“A week of playing with and against a lot of guys who are going on to (play at) the next level gives you a head start,” Visnic said.
Barnesville’s Ayden Hannahs — like Tonkovich — is no stranger to OVAC All-Star Games. He, too, played in the baseball contest last month. While that was exciting, especially considering Hannahs is headed to Muskingum to extend his baseball career, the chance to put the pads on more time was something he wasn’t going to miss out on.
“Being able to experience this is going to be fun,” Hannahs said. “I remember coming to this game several years ago and it’s been fun to hear about all of the history behind it. Ever since I came as a kid, I’ve wanted to be a part of it. My goal was to get here.”