North-South game 'big deal' for area players
The excitement of playing in the Ohio North-South Classic football game is two-fold for Jacob Matuska.
Not only does the game give the Hartley High School senior a chance for extra work at defensive end -- the position he expects to play for the University of Notre Dame this fall -- but it provides him another opportunity to step onto the field with one of his Hartley teammates, senior running back Marcellus Calhoun.
Matuska and Calhoun are two of 14 players from the ThisWeek coverage area who are expected to participate in the 68th annual event, which has switched to a two-game format. Both all-star games will be played Saturday, April 27, at Welcome Stadium in Dayton.
"It's definitely a big deal," Matuska said. "Any all-star game you get invited to play in, you know it will be really competitive, and being able to play with Marcellus one more time will be fun. You get to see yourself against the best players from Ohio and I'll play some defensive end since that's what I'm going to be playing in college."
The game featuring players from Divisions I, II and III schools begins at 4 p.m., followed by the game featuring players from Divisions IV-VI schools at 7 p.m.
It marks the first time the event will be held at Welcome Stadium. It was held at Crew Stadium from 2001-07 and at Ohio Stadium the past five years.
Last season, Matuska had 16 catches at tight end and played linebacker and was named to the ThisWeek Super 25 team, and Calhoun, who has committed to Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., rushed for 1,683 yards and 26 touchdowns and was honorable mention Super 25.
The other area players set to play for the South all-stars in the Division IV-VI game are Newark Catholic's Kevin Bourne (DL), Johnstown's Nick Sadinsky (WR/DB), Heath's Donyelle Simpson (RB) and Harvest Prep's Zach Yousey (DB).
Bourne, who has signed with Kent State, was named Division VI defensive Player of the Year and helped Newark Catholic finish as state runner-up last season. Sadinsky had six interceptions and was first-team all-district in Division IV.
Cadiz Harrison Central coach Justin Kropka is coaching the South and Creston Norwayne coach Joe Harbour is leading the North team.
The Divisions I-III game features eight area players on the South team, including Pickerington North senior Godwin Igwebuike.
The Northwestern signee made the Super 25 team and was named district Offensive Player of the Year in Division I last season after rushing for 1,981 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also is a standout defensive back.
"It's a great honor to come together with some of the best football players in the state and be coached up by some of the best coaches in the state," Igwebuike said.
The other area players on the South team are Reynoldsburg's Emmanuel Beal (DL), Hilliard Darby's Caleb Day (DB), Hilliard Davidson's E.J. Jennings (RB), New Albany's Darron Lee (QB/DB), Dublin Coffman's Miles McCollum (DL) and Gahanna's Mitchell Rowell (LB) and Granyl Smith (DL).
Xenia coach Bob DeLong is coaching the South team and Tiffin Columbian coach Brian Colatruglio is leading the North squad. Mark Mueller, who recently stepped down as coach at New Albany, is serving as an assistant for the South team.
Lee is the only player for the South team who has signed with Ohio State. Two other OSU signees, Massillon Washington's Gareon Conley (WR) and Cleveland Glenville's Chris Worley (LB), are on the North roster.
Day (Illinois), Jennings (Ashland), McCollum (Harvard) and Rowell (West Virginia State) also have made their college decisions.
Last fall, Day, Jennings, Lee, McCollum, Rowell and Smith made first-team all-district in Division I and Beal was second-team all-district.
"It's an honor to play with some of the best players, not only from Ohio but from the Midwest," Lee said. "It's going to be a great game and this is a great opportunity, not only to show my talents but to win."