Jason Ziegler doesn't hide it.
The Perkins football coach loves high school football All-Star games. He simply cannot get enough of them.
“I'll coach every one they let me do,” Ziegler said Tuesday before guiding the practice for the East team in the 31st annual Fostoria Athletic Boosters East-West Coaches All-Star game.
The game is slated for 7 p.m. Saturday at Fostoria Stadium. Game tickets cost $7, with proceeds going to both the Fostoria and St. Wendelin athletic programs. Ziegler is conducting the East practices at Perkins High School this week in preparation for the game, and he will be coaching eight area players in Saturday's game.
“When you get to coach these types of kids who are this talented, especially seniors, it's special to me,” Ziegler said. “You get to see first-hand how well-coached they are, and it makes you feel good about what you're doing, and what other coaches are doing. That's why you do it.”
Before the Suburban Lakes League disbanded, Ziegler was the head coach multiple times in the annual SLL vs. Sandusky Bay Conference All-Star game. But once the SLL was no more, the game was halted.
“I know a lot of coaches will tell you they are not in it for wins and losses, they are in it for the kids to get better,” Ziegler said. “I'm getting the opportunity to see the finished product by getting involved in games like these. Not only do I not mind it, I absolutely love it.”
Scheduled to play in the game from Perkins includes Kyle Lewis, Dale Irby, Connor Mapus, Ozzie Hermes and John Workman.
Irby, headed to Div. II Ashland University, was the SBC Outstanding Performer in 2013, as well as the Division III Northwest District Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-Ohioan at defensive back. In the regular season, he compiled 1,872 all-purpose yards with 24 touchdowns, broke up nine passes on defense, had five interceptions and returned three of those for TDs.
Lewis was a first team All-SBC selection at tight end and defensive end. He made 86 tackles (14 for loss) and returned a fumble for a TD in the regular season. He was Northwest district first team, and third team All-Ohio.
Workman was first team SBC at linebacker, and second team at running back. On defense, he made 88 tackles (17 for loss). Meanwhile, Hermes and Mapus were second team selections on the SBC teams at defensive line and linebacker, respectively.
“After that Clyde game (19-6 playoff loss in second round last season), I thought I'd never get the opportunity to coach these kids again,” Ziegler said of his five outgoing seniors. “To get that chance to coach five of them again, to me, that's such a great thing,.
“For some of them, this is their last time ever putting on the football helmet,” he added. “It's the last time they will strap it up, so it's one last time to go out there and compete, have fun and try to beat someone across from you.”
Also on the team is a trio of Norwalk seniors in linemen A.J. Scott, Larry Case, and linebacker/tight end Garret MacFarland.
Scott was named first team All-NOL on the offensive and defensive line, made 71 tackles on defense and was a second team Northwest district selection. Case was first team NOL on defense with 49 tackles, while MacFarland was second team NOL at linebacker with 76 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He was also honorable mention NOL at tight end, where he caught 15 passes for 269 yards and 5 TDs.
To Ziegler's point on talent, the Pirates were 10-0 in the regular season, then beat Napoleon in the first round of the Div. III playoffs before falling to the Fliers in the second round. Meanwhile, Norwalk went 9-2, falling in the first round of the playoffs as well in Div. III. The Truckers lost by a combined nine points in both games to Northern Ohio League rival Tiffin Columbian, which will also be represented in the game by standout Donovan Walker.
“You get those kids from Norwalk and Tiffin, it's kids from different schools we don't play,” Ziegler said. “I know before even seeing them that those Norwalk and Tiffin kids are going to be well-coached, so really, it's an easy position for me, because they already know what they're doing.”
Ziegler said the biggest thing to stress this week isn't so much the implementing of an offense or defense, but making sure his team is in shape.
“Obviously it's getting pretty hot out this week, and we're only going to have three or four practices and then go play a game,” he said. “The biggest thing is seeing where these kids are with their physical shape. We'll need to get a little conditioning in, because there's only 30 kids or so on the roster and it's going to get hot.”
While the proceeds do not go to an area school, Ziegler said everything by Fostoria and event manager Tom Wade has been first class.
“They set up everything, between Tom and the Booster Club. Everything has been organized from the very beginning, there have been no questions at all,” Ziegler said. “They are going to come over here (at Perkins) and feed the team on Thursday night as well.
“Give a lot of credit to Fostoria for doing this,” he added. “It's one of the older All-Star games around, and it's quite an honor to see some kids from other teams.”
WHAT: 31st annual Fostoria Athletic Boosters East-West Coaches All-Star Game
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday, June 21
WHERE: Fostoria Stadium
TICKETS: $7 each, with proceeds going to the Fostoria and St. Wendelin athletic programs.