HUBBARD, Ohio (WKBN) – This Thursday night at Hubbard’s High School Stadium, the 36th annual Jack Arvin Classic all-star football game returns after a two-year hiatus.  Covid took away the opportunity for many of this area’s senior football players to showcase their talents the past two years, so the return of the game this summer promises to be a welcome revival.

The game will feature both something a bit new and something not so new.  The new element is that the head coach of the Trumbull squad has not served as a head coach before with current Western Reserve and former LaBrae defensive coordinator Collin Dotson.  He has served the past seven years as an assistant on coach John Armeni’s staff.

The not so new is that the Mahoning/Columbiana squad is being led by long-time area coach Paul Cusick from Crestview.  Cusick has been a head coach for the past 26 years including 3 at Leetonia and 23 as the mentor at Crestview.

“This makes it pretty exciting that my first head coaching experience is in this all-star game,” Dotson said.  “In talking with the board members of the MVCA, this is the first time in the 36 years of this game that an assistant has been a head coach.  So I feel pretty honored, but humbled at the same time.”

Although Cusick has led the Ohio team in the Penn-Ohio all-star game, this is his first opportunity to coach in the Jack Arvin Classic.

“It’s always fun,” Cusick stated.  “It helps out the association and gives me one more chance to coach Anthony (his son) so that is kind of cool.  It is just fun to bring guys in from different schools to see the talent all over the place.  The Mahoning Valley has great football.”

The path to Dotson taking the helm of the Trumbull squad began with the Mahoning Valley Coaches Association’s recruiting night.  As they discussed who would lead the team this year, the association looked to coach Armeni to take the reigns.  Unfortunately, coach Armeni had made other commitments, and could not accept the nod.

“He had recommended me,” Dotson said of Armeni.  “So they came to me and bypassed a lot of other successful head coaches in the area, so I’m very, very excited for the opportunity.”

As far as the composition of the teams, the Trumbull squad has three quarterbacks that have three totally different skill sets while the Mahoning/Columbiana team will rely on Cusick’s own son Anthony to run the Rebels’ spread offense.

“One of them played the wishbone at Mathews, one played in the spread at Mineral Ridge, and one played the read-option offense for (coach) Dan Williams at McDonald,” Dotson described his quarterbacking trio.  “Although it has been challenging to find an offense that fits these guys well, it has been a lot of fun at the same time to cater an offense to the skill sets of the quarterbacks, but also the athletes that we will have on the field.”

“Yeah, we are running our offense,” Cusick stated.  “Basically offense is offense, but with the terminology, the kids have to learn different terminology.  The biggest thing is getting them all on the same page, and each day we get a little bit better.”

Although the competition will be fierce on the field, both coaches are stressing that the kids have a fun experience in what may very well be their last high school football game.

“That is the biggest thing, you want the kids to have a fun experience and fun playing and get guys into the game because this is it for them.  This is the last game they will play.  The biggest thing is learning their talent.  What can they do well and how are we going to use it.  That is what we have tried to do these past few weeks,” Cusick explained.

“We just want to be able to give everybody some touches so they can go out and put their best foot forward in front of all their friends and family for one last time at Hubbard Stadium,” Dotson remarked.  “Some of these kids are not going to pursue an athletic career in college, which is fine.   So it gives them one more chance to play with maybe a high school teammate or high school opponent that they played against.”

The game is set for a 7:00 PM kickoff this Thursday June 9th from Hubbard’s Memorial Stadium.