These kind of rivalry games always pack a punch

WHEELING – It’s an all-star game, through and through. The Ohio Valley’s best come out to play in this storied contest in front of thousands of fans at Wheeling Island Stadium.

The OVAC All-Star Football Game is tradition and passion.

It’s also a rivalry game.

The players, many of whom are playing their final game of organized football, lay it all out for state pride. These players who spend just one week together leading up to the game, play like they’ve been together all four years of their high school careers. In a short time, they develop new friendships, the knowledge of a new playbook and, maybe, a new hatred of the players on the other side of the field.

People come out to spend an evening watching football and, for the past two years, they’ve seen an exhibition in Mixed Martial Arts break out.

Usually, the scuffles come in the first quarter right when emotions are rising rapidly. It starts with general pushing and shoving, which is seen in any high school football game, and it ends with punches being thrown.

Last year, at the beginning of West Virginia’s 35-7 win over Ohio, one player removed his helmet and swung it at a defenseless player at the end of a kickoff return.

On Saturday, those conditions escalated, again, between Ohio and West Virginia. The first quarter saw one instance when a group gathered after a play to shout at each other and send a message. After the shouting came some pushing.

It was sorted out rather quickly and teams returned to their respective huddles.

Later in the opening quarter, flags started to fly. Multiple personal foul penalties were called, one of which helped set up the first touchdown of the game, scored by West Virginia’s Justin Loughrie.

Another touchdown by West Virginia, a circus catch in the corner of the end zone by Cole Day, drew the ire of some Ohio players. As the Mountaineers were trending upward, gaining key momentum which would lead to their eventual 26-6 victory, the Buckeyes sulked into feelings of despair.

On the extra point try following Day’s touchdown, three personal foul penalties were called by the officials. Punches were thrown, on both sides, and players came to the defense of their teammates quickly.

It led to a pair of ejections – one for each team.

After that, even while tensions remained high, the players kept their cool.

Now, some people will say that there’s no place for fighting in an all-star game. In reality, fighting almost fits right in.

I’m not saying it should, though.

With all the hype and festivities that surround an all-star game, the players buy into the need to win at all costs. Maybe their egos get inflated a bit, which there is nothing wrong with, either.

In a game where the grand prize is year-long bragging rights, standoffs should be expected.

This isn’t exclusive to the OVAC, by any means.

At last month’s Penn-Ohio All-Star Game played in New Middletown, a Pennsylvania player was tossed after fighting. The same thing happened at the North Carolina East-West All-Star Game on July 20.

I’m sure there have been others, nationwide. If not full ejections, there has definitely been increased jawing and shoving.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

It’s passionate and prideful.

It’s an all-star game, after all.

(Peaslee is a sports writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. He can be contacted at mpeaslee@heraldstaronline.com and followed on Twitter at @HSDTsports)