NILES - For most of their high school careers they have been foes. But come Thursday night, area seniors will become teammates on the gridiron fighting for county supremacy.
The Mahoning Valley Coaches Association's 27th annual Jack Arvin Classic sponsored by ScoutingOhio.com will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hubbard Memorial Stadium.
The Mahoning/Columbiana and Trumbull County all-stars have been practicing and training hard at Niles' Bo Rein Stadium three days a week since May 27 to prepare for the last big game of their high school careers.
"It's going great, we got a great group of kids," Trumbull coach Brian Shaner said. "It's amazing how well they work together and how close they've become. They enjoy each other, they like playing with each other and they're very excited for the game. These are the best kids in Trumbull County and we're excited to go out there and see them compete. It's been a pleasure to coach this group, very receptive group. They love it, they want to do well."
Shaner, who has been a part of the Jack Arvin Classic in the past, said this year's game has been a positive experience for him so far. He added this year's squad is one of the best cohesive and coachable unit he has ever seen and had the privilege of coaching.
"They enjoy it, it isn't going to practice for them, they look forward to being here and they give us 100 percent each and every practice," Shaner said.
On the Mahoning side, coach Ryan Slone has been trying to maintain a steady balance of fun and production. The athletes are working hard but Slone understands this is the last time some of these seniors will ever get to play under the lights, so he is not afraid to let them have a little bit of fun.
"The kids are showing up and working hard, but they're having fun at the same time," Slone said. "This should be a fun experience for them to play one of the last high school games."
Even though fun and hard work go hand-in-hand during all-star games, make no mistake about it, these top athletes of Mahoning, Columbiana and Trumbull County will be raring to go come Thursday.
"We understand we're coaching the best of the best, so these athletes are super active and know how to prepare," Slone said. "They already have that work ethic and that drive, so the main goal was just making sure they understood what kind of offense and defense we're going to run and make sure we're running through reps and reps."
All these talented seniors want to go out on a good note by winning their final high school game. Once the first whistle blows and the ball is kicked off, all eyes will be on the ultimate of winning the Jack Arvin Classic. Let the battle for local bragging rights begin.
"The way to have fun is to win the game, and you have to put them time and effort in and these guys love football," Shaner said. "Their high school coaches did a great job of recommending them and giving us kids that want to play this game."