July 15 was a steamy, humid summer day in Michigan.
It was also the day the football rivalry between the Great Lakes state and the state of Ohio got a bit more heated.
If that’s even possible.
Beginning in 2014, the annual East-West All-Star Game in Michigan will be replaced with the Ohio-Michigan High School Football Border Classic, pitting the top 40 players from each locale against one another in a bid for bragging rights between the neighboring states.
“We’re excited about this. We think it could be something really great,” said Clawson High football coach Jim Sparks, who also serves as the All-Star committee chair for Michigan High School Football Coaches Association. “The Ohio coaches association contacted us about doing it. We had our executives look into it to see what would be required and just what it would entail.”
On July 15, the two respective associations finalized the deal to make the game an annual occurrence.
“At first, it was a bit overwhelming to tackle this, but we have so many good people in our association who put everything in place,” Sparks added. “Now, we want to make this as great an event as we possibly can.”
The inaugural game is set for June 14, 2014 at Donnell Stadium on the campus of the University of Findlay.
Sparks said the location will rotate between the states every year, but NCAA rules forbid high school All-Star games in Division 1 stadiums. So playing in Ohio Stadium, Michigan Stadium or Spartan Stadium, for example, is not an option.
“Every year will rotate the home site. We’re still figuring out where the games will be held in the future,” Sparks said about 2015, Michigan’s first year to host. “All the focus so far has been on 2014 right now.”
The coaching associations agreed on six-man coaching staffs and 40-player rosters; the roster was one of the main areas of hesitation, according to Sparks.
The East-West game, as it was this year, featured 88 players from across the MHSAA.
“Cutting out 48 players wasn’t something we wanted to do,” he explained. “Eliminating that many kids from an experience like this was our big concern. Our hope is the experience these 40 kids get will be even better. Our hope is the positives from this decision outweigh the negatives.”
Rules for the game are still be hammered out, but standard agreements like no blitzing and certain defensive fronts have already been agreed to.
Ohio will announce its roster Feb. 8; Michigan will do likewise Feb. 15.
“We’re hoping for a good product, a good game, and to develop a relationship with their coaches and players,” Sparks said. “We’re also looking for some wins for the state of Michigan.”