GREENFORD, Ohio (WKBN) – With the 40th annual Penn-Ohio Stateline Classic all-star game kicking off in just one-week, former players and coaches gathered Tuesday night at the South Range football field while the two teams practiced on the field. The players and coaches were recognized, took group photos, and were fed at the conclusion.
Approximately 80 players and coaches who participated in the game attended the event. Players from as early as the second game in 1981 attended the recognition, while Artie Altomare and John Gecina who coached the first game were also in attendance. Altomare and Gecina are honorary captains for the Ohio team in the contest next week.
Dave Skinner has the distinction of both playing and coaching in the game as he was named to the Ohio team in 1981 following a successful career at Southern Local. Skinner fondly remembered his experience in the game in which the Ohio team beat the Keystoners 21-14 at Geneva College.
“The tone for the game was set when they were announcing the line-ups. Brett (Elliott) from Springfield-Jefferson comes to the fifty (yard line), and the next player from PA comes to the 40 and points at him. Brett went nuts and I went and grabbed Brett. Next kid was Ed Smith from Springfield-Jefferson. Same thing. I had to go grab Eddy so we didn’t have a brawl before the game starts. The tone was set,” Skinner stated.
“PA was big, they had kids going to big-time schools and we had Kirk Loudermilk going to Ohio State and Kevin Powell going to YSU, but everybody else we had were D-3 guys,” Skinner added. “At halftime, it was 7-7 and we came out and beat them 21-14. And Brett Elliott actually caught the game-winning touchdown which was kind of karma.”
“The game is pretty easy to remember,” Skinner remarked. “It was a lot of fun, but we understood real quick. We had a loose group, we had a bunch of tough guys. Everybody just bonded so well. There was no ill will amongst anybody on the team. And our coaching staff was pretty top notch.”
“It’s one of the best all-star games around,” Skinner, who coached in the game in 2005 and 2010 proclaimed. “The North-South Game is Ohio against Ohio, but this is Ohio against Pennsylvania and there’s not a whole lot of love lost in the game.”
Another early participant in the contest was Deon Miller from South Range who played in the 1987 game which was also played at Geneva. Miller also has a son Ryan who participated in the game in 2015.
“I can’t tell you what I did today at work, but I can tell you what plays I ran, what scenarios were in the game, and what the score was. That’s how much I loved football back in those days,” Miller admitted.
Miller still sees former teammates both from South Range and from the Ohio team, “Chris Hoff and Eric Hammer played with me (from South Range). There were a few guys from West Branch I’ll run into at the Salem Community Center. There’s a couple of guys in the medical field working in the hospitals, and I’m in medical sales so we like to reminisce and talk about the good old days.”
“Pennsylvania won 14-6. It was a really good game, but it was really hot that day and we were a little light on personnel. Some of us had to go both ways,” Miller said about the game. “They had more than a few D-1 kids, and I remember guarding a kid going to Penn State who went on to play wide receiver there.”
“It was a lot of fun,” Springfield’s former 2012 all-star linebacker Ryan Stacy remarked. “The thrilling part was that Ohio won that year. I don’t remember the score, I couldn’t tell you. But there are still some guys I see and we look back and talk about the game. It was a good time.”
“It was actually played at Springfield,” Stacy said. “There really isn’t too much I recall from the game, but it was scrappy and all the Ohio guys had each other’s back. It didn’t matter what school you’re from, we were pretty much one team. It was a good time.”
The Penn-Ohio Stateline Classic Game will be played at Geneva College in Beaver Falls next Wednesday with kickoff set for 7 pm.