For the ninth consecutive year, senior all-league selections from San Luis Obispo County will face off against those from Santa Barbara County for the chance to prove who is the best in the area. The FCA All-Star Football Classic put on by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has been challenging coaches and athletes on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels to use the powerful medium of athletics to impact the world for Jesus Christ, according to their website.
The game will feature 18 boys from North County schools: six from Paso Robles — Corban Payne, Marshall Wiesner, Hector Arteaga, Nathan Garica and Mark Martinez; four from Templeton — Shane Simonin, Jack Trimble, Zeke Mendez and Kade Gaertner; and nine from Atascadero — Dylan Enriquez, Stephan Reyes, Carson Eads, Scott Morgan, Cullen Cooper, Mathew Perry, Sammy DeRose, Wyatt McKenzie and Gary Kirkland.
Both of the teams have been given a week to prepare for the game that will be held at Righetti High School at 7 p.m. on Saturday and the high schools participating in the game will be the eight SLO County schools — Paso Robles, Templeton, Atascadero, SLO, Mission Prep, Morro Bay, Arroyo Grande and Nipomo against the SB County schools Pioneer Valley, Santa Maria, Righetti, St. Joseph, Orcutt Academy, Cabrillo, Lompoc and Santa Ynez.
All-Star games with little preparation often come with certain, special rules and the FCA All-Star Football Classic is no different. Most of the restrictions limit what defenses can do as the rules for Saturday state the defenses must run a college 4-3 and operate with two high safeties. Defenses are not allowed to blitz but the defensive lines can stunt. The offense has fewer restrictions but they might have an even bigger impact on the North County team than the defensive rules because the offenses can only have one tight end in the game at a time. The only other restriction for the offense is that they cannot go with five wide receivers and must have a running back in the backfield at all times.
The Santa Barbara squad took the victory last year in Atascadero but the game wasn’t quite even as the North County team did not have a starting senior quarterback from any of the schools and thus had trouble moving the ball offensively. This year that will not be the case as the North County schools now have three quarters that started for their teams this year in Trimble from the Eagles, Aiden Moriarty from the Pirates and Kadin Byrne from AG.
While the North County team has quarterbacks this year, they are thin at receiver and will have to get creative using players like Wiesner, who played H-back and in the slot for the Bearcats, in a receiving role.
“Yeah it is interesting,” Paso Robles head football coach and offensive coordinator for the all-star game JR Reynolds said. “We have a club this year that would probably benefit from a multiple tight end package but we can’t.”
After calling the defense for the North County team a year ago, Reynolds will call the offense this year and says the strength of the team is in their stable of backs.
“We have a ton of running backs,” Reynolds said. “We are going to run some pro stuff. It might be our base just based off of the personnel that we have and what they have. We might have to go a little old school and try to keep the ball out of their offense's hands. If we can control the line of scrimmage we will be alright.”
The North County will be able to pound the rock with their abundance of backs but will also have to rotate often as many of the players receiving handoffs will also play linebacker. The North County will have at least five running backs for the SLO team, not counting Byrne at quarterback who ran for 915 yards for the Eagles a year ago. Reyes (Atascadero), Simonin (Templeton), James Gilmet (AG) and Brayden Farr (MP) each were the primary ball handlers in their offenses and will get carries in Saturday’s game plus the bruising power of Garcia (Paso Robles) who will also get carries. On top of their running backs, the North County team also has two great fullbacks in Morgan (Atascadero) and Steven Vargas (AG) meaning there might be some real I-formation football.
The FCA All-Star game serves many purposes. Not only does it bring together kids that have been rivals since pop warner and galvanizes the surrounding communities to root for the same team, even if it is for only an evening, but it also serves as one of the best fundraisers as 100% of the money each player raises goes directly back to his home school.
Nipomo head football coach Tony Dodge will be the head coach of the North County team on Saturday and will also call the defense. Atascadero’s Vic Cooper will be working with the offensive line and Templeton’s Don Crow will be working with the tight ends. The North County needs a win to keep the series competitive, in the eight years that this game has been played Santa Barbara County has won six of them.