WHEELING - Welcome to the fraternity.
That was the message to those involved in the 69th Annual Rudy Mumley All-Star Football Game Wednesday during the George Strager Evening with the Stars.
"That's what we try to stress upon the players," Game Director Bob Koch said. "It's almost like an exclusive group ever year. They're starting to sense that. Every event that just piles up, they're starting to realize what they're apart of.
Photo by Tony Viola/George Strager Memorial Camp Scholarships recipients are, front row, from left, Wheeling Central’s Derek Yocke, Wheeling Central’s C.J. Burch, John Marshall’s Trevor Hardesty and Linsly’s Austin Whipkey. In the back, from left, are St. Clairsville’s Joel Giffin, St. Clairsville’s Colby Lindsay, Cambridge’s Kordell Stage and St. Clairsville’s Zach Musilli.
"This is really a capstone to their high school career. It's an opportunity to play one more game."
Just like with any fraternity, the players are starting to become like brothers.
"At the beginning of camp, you would see guys only sit with the guys they know," Ohio coach Jose Davis said. "Now you look around and the groups are starting to get bigger and bigger."
Over 400 people-including players, parents, Queen of Queen contestants and cheerleaders-gathered in Wheeling Park's White Palace to celebrate not only themselves, but the former St. Clairsville coach who the event is named after.
St. Clairsville Athletics Director Kelly Rine and Wheeling Central football coach Mike Young each paid tribute to Strager and presented eight scholarships that bear his name. The recipients - four from Ohio and four from West Virginia - were Wheeling Central's C.J. Burch and Derek Yocke, John Marshall's Trevor Hardesty, Linsly's Austin Whipkey, Cambridge's Kordell Stage and St. Clairsville's Zach Musilli, Joel Giffin and Colby Lindsay.
"It all kinda builds," Koch said of the All-Star week. "(Wednesday) was the first night we had the cheerleaders, the queens and the football players together. Then it rolls into Saturday when the band shows up. That's really when you start to get a sense of how big this all is."
Members of the 1964 All-Star team, which are celebrating their 50th anniversary, were also recognized and honored.
In his closing remarks, Koch also talked about the love of the game.
"You talk to these guys who played 50 years ago, and they truly love the game. You have (West Virginia coach) B.J. (Depew) and Jose, they both played in the game and they give up a week of their summer to be with these guys. It just gets to you. It's neat to see.
"Once you play in it once, you live with it the rest of your life. It's quite nice. A lot of it is a tribute to the Ohio Valley."