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It's time to change date for Spanos game

08/11/2014, 11:00am PDT
By John Maffei

All-Star Classic needs to move from summer to a December-January kickoff


Serra grad Calvin Crockett of the South squad tries to elude a North tackler in last month's Alex Spanos All-Star Classic.

For 24 years, the Alex Spanos All-Star Classic was the high school football highlight of the summer.

But with the 25th anniversary of the game on the horizon, changing times and NCAA rules dictate the game that pits San Diego's best graduating seniors makes a drastic change.

Looking at the less-than-half-full stands at San Diego Mesa College in July and looking at rosters that were void of all-county performers, it was obvious the game needs to move.

Summer all-star football just doesn't work any more. December or January should be the target date.

There are all kind of arguments to leave the game in the summer, but they're from the old guard at the High School Sports Association.

John Shacklett, one of the most-respected coaches of his day when he was leading Morse to 18 league titles and five San Diego Section titles in the '80s and '90s, would like to see the game to stay where it is.

He argues an all-star game in December-January would keep players away from basketball or wrestling.

And he has a point.

But how many players are dual-sport guys? And if they are, how much time would a December-January football game cost them in another sport?

The High Sports Association needs to realize this game is dying because it can't get players.

Of the 56 senior football players on the All-San Diego Section team, only 20 played in this summer's all-star game.

It was great to see stars like record-setting quarterback Anthony Lawrence (Grossmont), receivers JaJuan Thomas (San Pasqual), Christian Brooks (Grossmont) and Iman Chatman-Dixon (Mater Dei) and defenders Damonte Holiday (Hoover), Travis Kerchner (Ramona) and Devaughn Murray (Mount Miguel).

But where were stars like Fred Warner (Mission Hills), Kyle Hendrickson (San Pasqual), Ricky Liuchan (Mission Hills), Jace Whittaker (Oceanside), Isiah Olave (Eastlake), Alijah Holder (Oceanside), Jalen Davis (Helix), Jordan Perez (Carlsbad), Xavier Ulutu (Cathedral Catholic), Jabril Clewis (Henry), Royce Freeman (Imperial), Thai Cottrell (Oceanside), Isaiah Strayhorn (Eastlake), Mikah Holder (Oceanside), Isiah Henne (San Marcos), Connor Wynn (Mission Hills), Christian Chapman (Carlsbad), Chris Moliga (Cathedral Catholic) and Andre Petties-Wilson (Mission Bay)?

The simple answer is most were already off the college.

"We need to move the game," said Grossmont coach Tom Karlo, who had the South squad this year. "I coached this game is 2011 and had like 23 Division I college guys. This time, I only had a handful of college guys."

The big reason is a change in the college rules.

College teams are now allowed to bring their in-coming freshmen scholarship players in early ... in late June.

That wasn't always the case.

Karlo said every college-bound player he contacted wanted to play in the all-star game.

"But most were headed to college already," Karlo said.

Andrew Clark, athletic director and offensive coordinator at San Pasqual - who helped coach the North along with San Pasqual head coach Tony Corley, said Eagles all-county linebacker Kyle Hendrickson was dying to play.

But Fresno State insisted Hendrickson report to school. Fresno State also took Mitchell, Ulutu and Moliga.

Warner was at BYU, Liuchan at Oregon State, Jace Whittaker at Arizona, Holder and Perez at Stanford, Freeman at Oregon, Cottrell at San Jose State, Henne at Sacramento State and Petties-Wilson at TCU.

So the coaches had to fill rosters with good players.

But this isn't the Alex Spanos Good-Player Classic. It's an all-star game and something needs to be done to get the stars back in the game.

The game carries the name of Chargers owner Alex Spanos, and the Chargers pay most of the bills.

Chargers officials would like to see the game moved to December-January.

San Diego Section Commissioner Jerry Schniepp said there are no rules prohibiting a December-January game.

Ramona coach Damon Baldwin said college coaches are allowed to attend games in December-January, but not in July. That could pay a dividend for a player or two still looking for a scholarship.

The stadium isn't a problem because the game is played at Mesa College - a very nice venue which is centrally located.

The fact the High School Sports Association is trying to protect basketball and wrestling is admirable.

But the current coaches would like to see a change. The Chargers would like to see a change. The fans deserve a change.

So let's change it.

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