By Brian Paglia
At halftime of last year's first Henry County All-Star Football Game, referees approached both coaching staffs of the North and South teams with a warning. On the field, the play was physical and players were getting confrontational. If a dose of civility didn't return, the referees said, the game would be stopped.
"It was an intense game," said Henry County coach Mike Rozier, who was head coach of the South team last year. "We're playing to win."
Woodland coach Scott Schmitt was an assistant on the North team last season. On Saturday, he will be the head coach of the North team for the second annual Henry County All-Star Football Game at Henry County High, and he has similiar memories from last year's game.
"There was a lot of hitting going on," Schmitt said. "Usually you watch an all-star game and you don't really know what to expect, but they came out and hit. I think they will this year, too. The kids are excited."
While the familiar visceral adrenaline of the game will most likely overtake players Saturday, it will bely the spirit of comraderie that characterizes practice this week.
Last year's teams were comprised of Henry County players. This season, Rozier, who coordinated the event, reached out to include players from Griffin, Jackson and Spalding, teams many Henry County programs compete against on a regular basis.
For instance, during the past two seasons, Jackson's star running back Quint McKibben helped defeat Woodland by a combined score of 54-0. On Saturday, McKibben will likely be Schmitt's starting running back.
"This is a great opportunity to hang out with coaches in the region and have a good time with those guys and kids from different teams that we play against," said Schmitt.
"I've enjoyed the Jackson kids and Spalding. We all know each other. It's a big network of coaches and players. It's always neat to see what someone else has done in the region and then get to coach them."
Both rosters feature several players signed to play college football, but feature even more players without their future in the sport secured. At the conclusion of last year's game, nine players signed with prep schools and junior colleges who were in attendance to scout for talent.
"Hopefully we can duplicate that or even more," Rozier said. "That's what I tried to sell to (players)."
But some players aren't concerned with the implications of this game on their football career. They are simply eager to play football.
"Some of them, they're not worried about that," Rozier said. "They just want to put the uniform on one more time."