Johnstown Independent

Football

Johnstown, Northridge players relish all-star game

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Jacob Burke has one more opportunity to play football at the prep level.

The 2014 Northridge High School graduate battled injuries throughout his final two seasons with the Vikings, but he has a chance to put those memories behind him when he participates in the Licking County-Muskingum Valley All-Star game at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 27, at White Field in Newark.

Burke, a running back and linebacker who has committed to Case Western Reserve University, is the only Northridge player participating in the game. He will be joined on the Licking County team by Johnstown-Monroe's Clayton Bullard (TE/DL), Harrison Johnson (TE/LB) and Loren Queen (RB/LB/DB).

Last season, Northridge and Johnstown finished 2-8 and 5-5 overall, respectively. The Johnnies went 3-1 in the LCL-Small School Division to finish second, behind Newark Catholic (4-0) and ahead of Utica (2-2), Heath (1-3) and the Vikings (0-4).

"It means a lot (to play in the all-star game) because I've had a lot of adversity over the past two years," said Burke, who had his senior season end prematurely because of a knee injury after having his junior season cut short because of a foot injury. "I was cleared in April, and I'll get a chance to play a game healthy before heading to college."

The Licking County team will be coached by former Lakewood coach Rex Sponhaltz.

Muskingum Valley leads the series 17-15, but Licking County won 21-14 last year at Zanesville to end a three-game losing streak.

Johnstown's Mike Carter coached Licking County last season with Queen watching from the stands, waiting for his chance to take part in the game.

"Coach Carter takes the team to the game every year so we can see what it's like," said Queen, who will continue his playing career at Otterbein University. "It will be good to be able to play on the same team as the people we have played against for a while. It should be a fun experience."

Burke is looking forward to playing alongside Bullard after having competed against him in both football and wrestling.

"It will be nice to be around other players like Clayton, who I grew up with," Burke said. "We wrestled together in the offseason and against each other during the season. It should be a lot of fun."

Bullard, who has committed to playing for Urbana University, participated in the Division IV-VII game of the North-South Classic on April 26 at Welcome Stadium in Dayton as a member of the South team.

He tackled Gates Mills Gilmour Academy running back Ishmael Hargrove for a 5-yard loss on a two-point conversion attempt in overtime to secure a 28-27 win for the South.

"The North-South game was a good time, but I know everyone here and look forward to having a lot of fun," said Bullard, who was named first-team all-state, district Defensive Player of the Year and league Lineman of the Year last fall. "Besides, this is my last high school game and I want to enjoy it."

Queen also is looking forward to the experience, but also hopes the workouts and contact will help him prepare for preseason camp at Otterbein.

"I think this will make the transition a little easier," said Queen, who made second-team all-league last season. "I will be meeting a lot of new people just like I will this fall (at Otterbein). This will help me get out of my shell."

Johnson, who made second-team all-district and first-team all-league last season, does not plan to play in college.

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