Eighteen recent graduates from JG-TC area schools were invited to play in two football all-star game June 29 and for most, it will be their final time playing in a game.
The 29th Order of Eastern Star All-Star Football Game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Walter Boyd Field in Maroa and is to feature five JG-TC players, while the 15th annual Wabash Valley Football Coaches Association All-Star game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CDT at Indiana State Universities Memorial Stadium. A total of 13 from the area will be in that game.
Mattoon coach Troy Johnson will be the defensive coordinator for the Black Division team and this will be his 13th year as a part (assistant or head coach) of the WVFCA game.
"I just like coaching it," said Johnson. "You know you around kids that just love football and the teaching part is easy. They are there for a reason. They are good football players and football is a part of their life. I get to really know the new kids as a lot of kids I don't get to see play. I also get to spend some time with the other coaches and learn some things from them."
Wabash Valley Football Coaches Association All-Star game
Scheduled to compete in the game for the Black Division, coached by Paris' Jeremy Clodfelder, are Mattoon's Jake Pilson, Brock Smith, Myles Woodard, Jackson Nichols, Gunnar Runyon and Payton Smith along with Casey-Westfield's Loggan Thompson, Marcus Downs.
However, Pilson and Nichols will not be playing.
Mattoon coach Troy Johnson is an assistant coach for the Black Division.
On the Gold Divison coached by North Vermillion's Brian Crabtree, are Tri-County's Michael Hawkins and Anthony Jones along with Cumberland's Connor Butler, Zach Wolke, and Dayton Mitchell.
Mattoon was 7-4 reaching the second round of the Class 5A playoffs. The Green Wave finished 4-2 in the Apollo Conference good for third place.
Pilson, who is headed to Lehigh, was a second-team quarterback and first team all-Apollo Conference defensive back. He threw for 1,890 yards and 17 touchdowns and ran for 798.
Smith led the JG-TC in receiving with 55 catches for 761 yards and nine touchdowns and was a first team all-conference wide receiver, while Nichols was an Illinois Football Coaches Association All-State defensive linemen in Class 5A and first team all-Apollo at that position as well.
Runyon was a second-team offensive lineman and linebacker, while Payton Smith was a first-team offensive lineman and is headed to Illinois State for track.
Casey-Westfield was 5-4 overall and 4-4 in the Little Illini Conference, while Cumberland went 7-3 and won the Little Okaw Valley Conference Southeast Division with a 4-0 record. The Pirates lost in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs.
Butler was a second team skill player and a first-team all-LOVC NW Division wide receiver, while Wolke was a first-team linebacker and Mitchell a first team all-division offensive and defensive lineman.
Thompson was a second-team defensive back for the Warriors, while Downs was a second-team quarterback who threw for 756 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Tri-County was 4-5 overall and 1-3 in the LOVC SE Division. Jones was a second-team all-LOVC SE Division player for the Titans.
Overall a total of 97 players from 32 high schools in the Wabash Valley Football Coaches Association will play.
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Practice will be at Memorial Stadium from 10 a.m. to noon on June 23, June 24, June 26 and June 28 and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on June 25 and 27.
An awards banquet will be Friday at Saint Mary of the Wood College, Providence Center for the players and their guests. The keynote speaker will be Dan Watson, a former Terre Haute North graduate and currently the offensive coordinator for Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology football. He is also a former participate having played in the game in 2006.
The WVFCA will be inducting Andy Amey, Norm Lowery, David Patterson, and Brent Compton into the WVFCA Hall of Fame at the banquet.
The Black team won last year's game 32-28. This is the seventh year the coaches have drafted the players. Previously it was the North against the South. The Black team also won in 2017, 28-7.
The Black Division has 50 players, while the Gold Division has 47.
There is a 7-on-7 competition at 8 a.m. CDT and a strongman competition as well.
Order of the Eastern Star All-Star Football game
The West team won last year 20-10. The East has gone 14-13 in the last 27 games.
Practices will be at Argenta-Oreana for the East squad and at Central A&M for the West team. A-O coach Steve Kirk is the coach of the East, while Central A&M coach Brent Weakly is the coach of the West team.
A dinner honoring the players and coaches will be June 28 at 6 p.m. at the Macon Community Center.
Tickets can be purchased for $5 on game day and all proceeds from the game go to the Educational Assistance Fund of the Order of the Eastern Star.
A $750 scholarship will be awarded to the Most Valuable Player form each squad.
There are 31 players on the East team, which includes Shelbyville's Joel Bleskey along with Sullivan/Okaw Valley's Cullen Dyer and Leman Jones. Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond's Lance Mercer and Caleb Nettles are also on the East team.
Bleskey was a first-team all-Central Illinois Conference linebacker for the 3-6 (2-5 in the conference) Rams. He led the JG-TC area in tackles with an average of 10.4 per game.
Leman was a second team all-CIC defensive lineman for the 0-9 (0-7) Redskins.
The Knights finished 2-7 overall and 1-4 in the LOVC NW Division.
There is a total of 28 players on the West squad.