CENTENARY, Ohio — Blue and White take to the big stage.
Gallia Academy head football coach Alex Penrod, and GAHS senior Jacob Campbell will represent the Blue Devils at the 74th OHSFCA North-South All-Star Classic on April 27 at Washington High School’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon.
Coach Penrod — the 2018 Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association Division IV Coach of the Year, who led the Blue Devils to a 9-2 mark and an outright Ohio Valley Conference championship — will be one of five assistant coaches on the Division 4-7 South squad, with Franklin Furnace Green’s Ted Newsome serving as head coach.
Campbell — a first team All-Ohioan and the all-district Defensive Player of the Year this past fall — is one of four linebackers on the Division 4-7 south squad.
Coach Penrod has thus far enjoyed the North-South experience, and noted that being selected to participate in the nation’s longest-running high school all-star game was not only an honor for him, but for the Blue Devil community as a whole.
“It’s really just an honor, not only for myself, but really for our coaching staff, for our players, our school district and our area,” Penrod said. “I’m very honored for being nominated and being able to coach in this game. It’s neat really, because you see some of the kids you’ve played against during the year. To really watch a lot of football and see those kids, to see what other programs do, and then to be able to interact with them, it’s been a fun process.
“It’ll be neat to be in the spring time and actually get to coach football. Not just talk about football and work on things, but actually coach football and get that blood flowing a little bit sooner than you normally do for the regular season.”
Coach Penrod also talked about Campbell getting to represent the Blue Devils one final time.
“He’s one of those true football players,” Penrod said. “You have a lot of kids that play football, play basketball, run track, those things, but he’s solely a football kid and he has that football mindset. To see him put those shoulder pads and that Oval-G helmet on again, it’s really an honor for him and all the hard work he’s spent doing what he’s loved. To be honored in that way, to represent the Oval-G one more time, it’s been special.”
Campbell — who made 82 tackles, including 15 for loss, and forced a pair of fumbles as a senior —talked about what playing in the North-South game means to him, as well as some of what he’s looking forward to.
“It’s a real honor,” Campbell said. “It just shows the work I’ve put in to get here, and how much my coaches have helped me along the way. I’m looking forward to going out and getting to play football one last time. We’re going to get to go to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and I haven’t been there before, so I’m pretty excited about that.”
While visiting the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a bonus to the trip, Coach Penrod also talked about the value of the attraction.
“It’s the significance of what football is,” Penrod said. “I’ve been to the Hall of Fame one time, it was 4-or-5 years ago. It’s a very cool thing to see all of those statues, to be able to walk in there and see Fawcett Stadium.”
The Division 4-7 team held its first practice in Chillicothe on April 7, and will be using the indoor facility at Massillon High School once they arrive in Stark County on Wednesday.
Campbell — who also excelled on offense as a senior, rushing for 630 yards and 18 touchdowns on 105 carries — noted that he hit it off with the unlikeliest of his new teammates.
“I’m making new friends, I’ve met a few teammates and I’ve gotten close with a few,” Cambell said. “The kid I’m closest with now is Licking Valley’s running back (Connor McLaughlin), who we played in the playoffs. I’m going to room with him in the hotel. I was surprised by that, I didn’t think that we’d become friends when I got there.”
McLaughlin — ran for 250 yards and scored the final three touchdowns of Licking Valley’s 36-12 Region 15 postseason win over the Blue Devils — who won’t be the only former foe turned teammate for Campbell, as Fairland’s Joel Lambiotte is one of two quarterbacks on the squad.
The Division 4-7 game is scheduled to kickoff at noon, with the Division 1-3 game starting at 4 p.m.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.