Bonita Vista coach Chris Thompson will guide the South team in the Alex Spanos All-Star Football Classic.
For nearly three decades, the Alex Spanos All-Star Football Classic was a summer staple.
The best high school players from the previous season would gather in July, play their last prep game, then head off to college.
But a change in NCAA regulations in 2012, a rule that allows incoming freshmen to report to school in late June, stripped the Spanos game of its stars and threatened its future.
So the movers and shakers at the High School Sports Association, organizers of the event, decided to switch the game to January.
“This change makes it a real all-star game,” said Bonita Vista coach Chris Thompson, who will lead the South squad against the North in Saturday’s game at San Diego Mesa College.
“This is a game with some of the best players in San Diego.”
July is a dead or no-contact period for college recruiters. So all-star players without scholarships couldn’t get that last look.
January is an open period for recruiters, so scholarship offers could be on the line Saturday.
The national coaches convention is going on in San Antonio, but schools like Dixie State, Minot State, Azusa Pacific and Pacific University in Oregon have been to both the North and South practices.
“And I expect a lot more schools will be at the game,” Thompson said.
Thompson and North coach Jason Texler of San Marcos plan to put the game on Hudl, a video service that is used by nearly every college program in the country.
“That’s my strength,” said Thompson, who sold his sports video company to Hudl.
“We’ll do a quality job filming, so I think this game will get a lot of views from college recruiters. Believe me, if you want to play, there are places to play.
“Part of our jobs as all-star coaches is to help the players get seen.”
While switching dates is a good thing, it also has created a problem. Some of the county’s better players are on recruiting trips this weekend and won’t be in the game.
And some, like San Marcos’ Terrell Burgess, is still nursing a shoulder injury.
Still, the South features 12 All-CIF San Diego Section players, including SDSU-bound running back Greg Bell (Bonita Vista) and defensive end Forrest Hanlon (Helix) and tight end Jacob Burton (Granite Hills), who has committed to Arizona.
“This is a much better time for our players to get exposure,” said Ramona coach Damon Baldwin, who coached 10 years at San Diego State and knows the recruiting game.
“January is a contact period, so college coaches can be at the all-star practices and the game.”
“Having the game in July really cut down the options because colleges wanted their players on campus in June.”
North coach John Anderson found that out last season as he and his Mt. Carmel staff scrambled to put together offensive and defensive lines.
Thompson said his lines — which include Burton, Hanlon, Josiah Sa’o (Kearny), Jacob Kitten (Santana), David Falo (Madison) and Moli Faalogo (Bonita Vista) — are a team strength.
Grossmont coach Tom Karlo was in charge of the South all-stars in 2011 and again in 2014. And there was a huge difference.
“In 2011, we had a bunch of Division I college guys on the roster,” Karlo said. “In 2014, after the rule change, we had two Division I guys.
“It was still a good game, but the big-name players were already at school.
“I suggested we moved the game to June before the players reported to college. I liked the summertime game.
“I liked seeing them get ready to go off to school. But moving to January, I think, is the next-best thing.”
Texler and Thompson would like one tweak in the schedule.
“I don’t know if there is a perfect date, but I’d like to see us move the game back one week to late January,” Thompson said.
“That would allow us to work with the two-sport guys and spread out our practices over three weeks rather than two.
“But this is definitely a step in the right direction.”
What: North vs. South in 26th annual Alex Spanos All-Star Football Classic.
Who: Top graduating seniors from 2015 football season.
When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Where: San Diego Mesa College.