With a week to go, the plans for the 41st annual Lions All Star Football Classic are falling into place.
Game chairwoman Elizabeth Gibbs-Olson said that 32 clubs in District 4-A1 are involved in the game, and a core of 15 to 20 volunteers attends monthly meetings to plan an event that brings together the top senior football players from the San Joaquin Valley and foothills for a week of training and one more game with their high school rivals.
The Lions have enough organizational experience that moving to a new venue, Tracy High’s Wayne Schneider Stadium, presented few logistical challenges.
“It takes a lot of people to put it on, but we’re a pretty dedicated group of volunteers,” she said.
Starting on Monday, the two teams — 30 players on the North team led by Tokay High coach Louis Franklin, and 30 on the South team led by Merced High coach Rob Scheidt — will begin a week of practice leading up to the main event at 6 p.m. June 14 at Tracy High.
Gibbs-Olson said that the payoff for organizers like her is seeing young men who used to square off against each other working together through the week.
“Most of these players have been rivals since they were in Pop Warner. It’s nice to see them come together as a team,” she said. “It’s about teaching them camaraderie and integrity.”
Game co-founder Wayne Schneider, Tracy High’s former football coach and a member of Tracy Breakfast Lions, said that much stays the same as in years past.
The South team spends a week at California State University, Stanislaus, in Turlock, staying in the college dormitories and practicing on the CSUS fields. They’ll take a night off on Thursday to have dinner with the Turlock Lions Club.
The North team stays at the University of the Pacific in Stockton and practices at Stagg High, taking a night on Tuesday to have dinner with the Linden Lions. Players on the North team include Chaz Briggs, Clayton Fegett and George Obinna from Tracy High and Gaige Allen of Kimball High.
On June 14, they will come together at 2 p.m. for a barbecue at Lincoln Park, hosted by the game committee, in preparation for the 6 p.m. game. A Saturday morning youth football combine originally planned as part of the event was canceled.
Tracy High will be more involved, with Keith Britt, announcer for the Bulldogs’ home games, as the announcer for the All Star game and the Tracy High cheerleaders to be featured at halftime.
As in years past, the Tracy Tank Town Lions will run the snack bar, and the Tracy Breakfast Lions will attend the gate.
Lyndell Hawkins, a Tracy High assistant principal and member of the All Star Game committee, said that the Lions decided last year that they wanted the 2014 game to be in Wayne Schneider Stadium.
Hawkins said planning started right after the 2013 game at Modesto Junior College, and one of the first things the committee did was contact Tracy Unified School District to reserve the stadium.
“It’s like any other athletic activity we might bring here,” he said.
Hawkins, who played on the 1977 North team as a Tracy High senior, added that he looks forward to Tracy High’s chance to showcase its new stadium.
“Especially with Coach Schneider being on the committee, just to have it in the stadium named after him, that’s the biggest part,” Hawkins said.
Contact Bob Brownne at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830-4227.