By John Raffel
Football players who were seniors in 2006 gathered Saturday for the beginning of what will be a memorable eight days, concluding with the annual Michigan High School East-West All-Star football game on July 21 at Michigan State University's Spartan Stadium.
The 88 selected all-stars (44 of both sides) will almost all be attending a college football camp in August. But first, they have a final high school game to play. Myles McNichols, a defensive back from Battle Creek Central, is going to Wayne State, an NCAA Division II school in Detroit. He said he'll use the game to prove the Division I coaches that they were wrong to overlook him.
"I'm going to play like this is a real game," McNichols said. "Then I'll go to Wayne State, hopefully get some All-American honors and prove that they were wrong for not taking me. I try to focus on Myles McNichols."
"This is a real big honor. There's all of these student-athletes from all over the state. To be among the only 88 players selected is quite an honor." Muneer Bawaheh of St. Clair Shores South Lake. "I consider it like my last high school game. I'll try to seize the moment and have fun at the same time."
Bawaheh is headed to Ferris State after suiting up for the East squad.
A Coach's Delight
The All-star coaches all say they're getting two main things out of being in Saturday's game: a lot of fun and a lot of education.
"I played in the first game here in 1981," East assistant coach and Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central head coach Jack Giarmo said. "My son (inside linebacker Anthony Giarmo) is playing in this game. He was a manager when my brother was the coach of the West team."
Drake Wilkins of Detroit Denby Tech & Prep is the East coach.
"I'm excited. This is one of the greatest moments of my high school coaching career," Wilkins said. "It's a joy being able to have coached some of these players that in the future, on the college or maybe even the pro level, you will see on TV and read about in the papers. Most of these players were All-State.
"I'm working with some of the top coaches in the state. Putting our heads together, you can't help but learn some things."
East assistant coach Tony Patritto from Rochester Adams, agrees.
"Sharing ideas with the other coaches is great," Patritto said. "We're usually too busy with our own teams during the regular season to be talking with the other coaches. So this is awesome."
The All-Star Series
Saturday's game is the 27th annual contest and the West has some catching up to do. The East won last year, 22-15, and has a 14-12 lead in the series.
The East is selected from nominees whose schools are located in southeastern Michigan, including the Detroit area. It represents 200 high schools and around 269,301 students.
The West All-Stars are from nominees whose schools are from the rest of the state. It represents some 423 high schools and approximately 277,900 students. No high school is allowed to have more than one player. Coaches are allowed to nominate players from their own school. The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) selects the all-star coaches in the spring. The respective coaching staffs select the 44 players from the nominations submitted by their high school coaches.
The game is funded by the MHSFCA with sponsorships by the United Auto Workers International Union and General Motors. The players reported to Michigan State Friday, July 14, had a media day on July 15, and will practice three times a day leading up to the contest.