The game is played for charity and bragging rights. But West Valley coach Greg Grandell said Wednesday the key to winning the Lions All Star Football game is something altogether different.
“The Xs and Os take care of themselves, but if you don’t have guys who care about each other and are willing to play for each other you’re not going to win,” said the Eagles’ coach who is guiding the north squad for the fourth time. “People might say they (the South) might have more talent, but I like how we’ve come together as a brotherhood.”
And that’s the key of the week long preparation before Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Chico High School. The 8-man squad, also practicing at Shasta College alongside the 11-man group, sees it game kickoff at 5 p.m. The games are a benefit for the Lions diabetic camp at Camp McCumber. Tickets are $10 and available here.
Anderson running back Parker Phillips, who spent his whole high school career battling Grandell’s Eagles, echoed the coach’s sentiments.
“You play against these guys your whole football career and to come together at the end is a pretty cool experience,” said Phillips. “At the end of the day, it’s about coming together and beating the South.”
And that’s something the North squad has done plenty of lately. After dropping its first game in a decade in 2017, the North responded with a 28-26 come-from-behind win in the waning moments of last year’s contest.
It’s something Phillips is in the back of everyone’s mind.
“We’re ready to get the job done,” he said.
And to that end, Grandell said he’s pleased with where his group was on Wednesday in preparation for Saturday’s kickoff.
“You’re teaching scheme and a little technique,” he said. “You’re trying to get them ready to play a game with an offense and defense they don’t know. You’re hoping the other part, the hitting and intensity, will come because they are all stars.”
The North will look to Fall River’s Gavin Dobson to start at quarterback with a slew of backs and receivers at his disposal. The run-heavy offense will see Phillips, Lassen’s Tucker St. Andre and Mount Shasta’s Gage Kincade handling the rock. Dobson, West Valley’s Devin Low and U-Prep’s Dylan Cabral all could see snaps in the shotgun offense and have wideouts Leslie Cummings of Enterprise and Lassen’s Chandler Monahan at their disposal.
The line will be anchored by Chester center Tyler Davidge and feature guys like Shasta’s David Rivera, Anderson’s Joe Carillo, Foothill’s Tyler Doe and Lassen’s Douglas Forrester.
On defense, the coaching staff loved the addition of Corning’s Ramces Ortiz at linebacker and have plenty of beef up front and speed on the back end.
On the 8-man front, Hayfork coach Mike Miller was running his group through its paces on Wednesday while trying to stay healthy.
“I know they (the South) is dealing with the same thing, so I think it’ll be a pretty good game.”
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