For incoming Lehigh football recruits, after graduation and before summer football camp, it's not all American Pie - it's also a time for high school all-star games, including the much-publicized Lehigh Valley All-Star Classic (taking place tonight at Nazareth's Andrew Leh Stadium at 7 pm).
While there are high-school all-star games in other states, the Lehigh Valley and the state of Pennsylvania seem to have what some might say is an unhealthy obsession with all-star football in June. Pennsylvania has three big-time ones, the "Big 33" game versus Ohio, the PSFCA East/West game, and multiple (only slightly) smaller all-star games like the LV All-Star classic tonight. And that doesn't even count the nearby Maryland Crab Bowl and NY/NE Football Classic, all of which get significant Lehigh Valley attention.
Of all the all-star games, the biggest in the "Big 33" game currently pitting the best of Pennsylvania versus the best of Ohio. Routinely packed with top-flight players heading to Pitt, Penn State and Ohio State, having players picked to play is not only a huge honor for the players, it's also something college football fans crow about as well. While Pennsy lost an exciting game 38-31 last weekend, one of the pleasant surprises was that an incoming Lehigh recruit - freshman LB Sam Loughery - made it onto the Big 33 roster and played well:
When Wisconsin recruit A.J. Fenton of Erie McDowell was injured during a practice about a week prior to the Big 33 Classic high school football all-star game, the Pennsylvania team needed a replacement.Loughrey, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound linebacker who will play at Lehigh University, was called on to fill in and take part in the prestigious game, which has more than half a century of tradition....
When the Pennsylvania coaching staff learned Fenton would not be able to play, officials began attempting to contact Loughrey last Monday, five days before the game was to be played at Hersheypark Stadium.
He couldn't be reached until Tuesday, three days after the Pennsylvania team started practicing in Hershey.
"I packed my bags and got up there as fast as I could," Loughrey said. "It ended up being tons of fun. All of us -- the guys from Pennsylvania -- got along together great. We played against great competition."
Loughrey was a PG East Fabulous 22 selection after this past season. He was a first-team selection to the WPIAL Class AAAA All-Big East Conference team and played a key role on the Vikings' 2007 WPIAL and PIAA championship teams.
"He's an outstanding football player," Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said. "He's one of the great tacklers who has ever played at Central Catholic. He's a very ferocious, downhill-type of get-after-it kind of kid."
Another big one is the PSFCA East-West All-Star game, where the East took advantage of turnovers to score a 37-22 win over the West. One of the big stories of this game (well, Lehigh-wise, anyway) was when the East-West game didn't select incoming Lehigh freshman Zach Barket to participate despite the fact he had shattered every single-season rushing record in the state with his 66 touchdowns (and, no, that's not a typo). Barket did end up playing in the game, even if he didn't score a touchdown in his 8 carry, 16 yard rushing performance.
Joining him on the winning East team was a cavalcade of incoming Patriot League recuits: OL Tyler Swoyer (Lafayette), RB Jeremiah Young (Bucknell), DE Jon Wagner (Bucknell), and DB Mike Yeager (Colgate). And the West also featured Patriot League players as well: LB Roman San Doval (Holy Cross) and OL Brandon Morris (Bucknell).
The Lehigh Valley All-Star game tonight will feature (on the Lehigh side) incoming freshman LB Billy Boyko (out of Northhampton HS). For good measure, former Lehigh assitant coach Rob Melosky will be inducted into the LV Classic hall of fame, too.
Other Lehigh players have also shown up in all-star games. Incoming freshman QB Mike Colvin was on the New Jersey roster in the NJ/NE football classic, where celebrity head coach Phil Simms decided to seemingly to line up in the "I" formation whenever Colvin went out there, disappointing most Lehigh fans hoping to see Colvin make his mark. He played alongside players who will be taking their talents to FCS schools James Madison, William & Mary, New Hampshire, Villanova, Maine, Stony Brook, Tennessee State, Towson, Delaware, Colgate, Fordham, and Wagner. (Also on the East roster was LB Zach Protin, who will be taking is talents to "that school in Easton".)
And in December 2008, incoming Lehigh players freshman OL Lex Utt, freshman P/K Jake Peery and freshman ATH Gabe Johnson also played in the Maryland Crab Bowl in the first state-wide all-star game since 2004. It was a good chance for the Lehigh trio to face off against all-State competition - including top-flight talent from Penn State and Maryland.
If there are other Lehigh highlights in all-star games, I'll point them out here.