OVAC to welcome back 2020 all-stars
BETHANY — All of the pieces were basically in place for the 2020 OVAC Rudy Mumley All-Star Football Game.
Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the game was canceled last April. It was the first time since 1971 that the game hadn’t been played.
It left OVAC All-Star Game Director Dirk Fitch with the unenviable task of delivering the news to coaches, players, cheerleaders, band members as well as many of the Queen of Queens candidates, who had secured their respective school’s spot in the pageant that what is usually one of the best weeks of the summer for the participants, that it wasn’t going to happen.
“I played in the (1979) game, so I know what this (event) means to you for the rest of your life,” Fitch said. “When we had to make the call (to cancel), it about broke my heart.”
Shortly after the planning for this weekend’s game started, the OVAC decided to try its best to recognize those aforementioned 2020 participants.
Though none of the Class of 2020 participants will take part in the festivities this weekend like they had envisioned prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in March of 2020, they’ve all been invited back to be recognized.
“(Cancelling the 2020 game) was a true shame,” Fitch said. “Having as many (of the participants) back as we can is something we’re excited to do, and we want the crowd to recognize them.”
As of Wednesday, 20 of the 64 players chosen for last year’s game have committed to return. Three cheerleaders are scheduled to return and several Queen of Queens will be recognized this evening at the Capitol Theater during the annual pageant.
“We will take the (returnees) up until that day if they’re able to get a hold of us,” Fitch said. “Many of the students had given us school emails (last year when they were chosen) and those have been obviously wiped out. Plus, a lot of the kids have gone back to school. If one shows up, we’re happy and everything else is a bonus.”
Football players committed to return from Ohio include: Austin Angus (St. Clairsville), Caden Fryman (Fort Frye), Colton Grimm (St. Clairsville), Easton Hitchens (Shenandoah), Donte Lewis (Martins Ferry), Cole Margos (Steubenville Central), Alex Meade (Barnesville), Chase Nolan (Bellaire), Heath Rosen (River) and Derek Witsberger (St. Clairsville).
The West Virginia representatives expected to return are Max Camilletti (Brooke), Jalen Creighton (Wheeling Central), Drew Curtis (Weir), Elijah Gillette (Weir), Michael Horan (Wheeling Central), Adam Murray (Wheeling Central), Garrett Scott (Cameron), Brennan Sechrist (Madonna), Sebastian Spencer (Weir) and Trevin Tush (Linsly).
The cheerleaders returning are Sydney Carpenter (Barnesville), Kelsey Crawford (Madonna) and Sadie Neunan (John Marshall).
While the players and cheerleaders will be recognized during the first quarter of the game, the OVAC elected to put its annual rotation between bigger and small schools coaching the game aside to invite B.J. Depew and Eric Huck back to coach West Virginia and Ohio, respectively.
Both coaches expressed their desire to do something for those 2020 kids. After all, those coaches had selected the players for the game already.
“I hope they all come,” Huck said. “There was nothing really anyone could have done to have avoided (last year’s cancellation), but to try to bring them back and honor them is important. I am glad that the OVAC saw that as well.”
Depew was excited about how important it was to the OVAC and game officials to be able to pay homage to the 2020 all stars.
“Everyone realizes how special this (all star game) is and it’s just a classy and necessary move on the part of the OVAC,” Depew said.