OVAC all-star camps are now open

BETHANY — The countdown has begun in earnest for the annual OVAC Rudy Mumley Football All-Star Game.

Saturday morning at Bethany College’s Thomas P. Johnson Health and Recreation Center, players from Ohio and West Virginia arrived in a steady stream to check in for what promises to be a week of lively camp action.

”I’m very happy,” Ohio head coach Karl Justus said. ”I’ve been looking forward to this for a very long time. I think we have a great staff and some really good players.”

West Virginia head coach John Durdines was eager to get to work as he watched his players enter and pick up their equipment.

”It’s so exciting to get things started,” he beamed. ”Obviously, from the time we started picking teams and the kids started submitting whether they were going to come, we’ve been anticipating this.

”Like I said, the excitement is here. I think the kids are excited and we’re ready to get going.”

Players looked liked kids on Christmas morning as they entered the doors of the TPJ and were greeted by OVAC football commissioner Dave Clutter. From there, it was on to the registration desk, where the step-by-step registration began. Following a stop at the T-shirt counter, players picked up their room keys and made their way into the indoor track area where former Cameron High head coach Jim Rogers was there to help them with equipment, etc.

Players on both sides got to work Saturday and will do so for the next week, culminating with the game, slated for 7 p.m. Saturday at Martins Ferry’s Purple Rider Stadium. The game had to be moved there after structural damage was found this spring at Wheeling Island Stadium.

Today, it’s time to start hitting, Justus said.

The former Conotton Valley head coach said he’s excited about the coaching staff he’s put together and believes the combination of strategies will be a benefit.

”Coach (Ryan) Ludwig from East Liverpool brought a few guys with him so he’ll be familiar with them and I know the other guys a lot so we’ll have a common bond and we can work together.”

Among Durdines’ assistants are Cameron assistant Eric James (the two worked together at Donahue) and former Madonna head coach Bob Kramer.

Durdines, who rebuilt Bishop Donahue into a West Virginia Class A contender, can’t wait to work with some of the Mountain State’s top talent.

”You have so much respect for the player’s on other teams,” he said. ”It’s great when you’re sitting on the sideline and you’re watching a kid give 100 percent and you’re like ‘Boy, I’d like to have that kid.’ And, now, you have that chance.”

Like Justus, Durdines will spend the first few days of camp introducing his terminology and starting to find the right fit for each of his players.

”Every kids is going to play,” he said. ”I’m all about giving these kids an opportunity to play. The more they show me out here, the more they’ll play come Saturday.”