Nineteen area stars suit up one last time

Nineteen area stars suit up one last time

MAROA — Tuscola and Shelbyville boast a strong prep athletic rivalry as Central Illinois Conference opponents. Turns out school doesn't even need to be in session for that to continue.

Tuscola football coach Andy Romine and recent Shelbyville graduate Turner Pullen are on the same team this week for the 28th annual Order of the Eastern Star All-Star Game, slated for 7 p.m. today at Maroa-Forsyth's Walter Boyd Field.

During an East Team practice earlier this week, Romine noticed Pullen didn't own a practice jersey. So Romine fixed that — by having Pullen don the Tuscola gold and black.

"I told the guys to Snapchat this, and now it's all over Shelbyville," Romine said with a laugh. "He's been a good sport about it."

That's the atmosphere Romine and his Tuscola staff are trying to maintain for this All-Star week. He's leading the East Team against Maroa-Forsyth coach Josh Jostes' West Team in what will be the final football event for many of the 60 athletes competing, all of whom have graduated.

"Number one, we want it to be fun and enjoyable," Romine said. "We want to compete at the highest level we can (today), and if that's good enough to be on top at the end of the game, great."

Among Romine's pupils for this exhibition are recent Warrior alumni Dakota Denny, Noah Pierce and Cale Sementi. This showcase also gives Pierce and Sementi one last opportunity to be coached by their fathers, Tuscola assistants Pat Pierce and Lenny Sementi.

"We've never had a kid (play in this game) and have a bad experience," Romine said. "The thing I've noticed after our first few nights of practices, it's cool to see our kids interact with all the kids from Unity, Monticello, Argenta-Oreana."

This is Romine's first time helming a squad in the Eastern Star All-Star Game. Even though it's not on the level of a state championship game — which Romine experienced last November with Tuscola losing 21-20 to Lena-Winslow in the Class 1A title game — the fourth-year Warriors boss is learning plenty this week.

"As I spend (time) with this group of kids, it tells me football in our area is very healthy," said Romine, whose East Team includes athletes from seven News-Gazette coverage area institutions. "I think most of them have a fantastic knowledge base of the game."

Even though preparation for this game may not be as intense as readying for a postseason tilt, Romine said he's experienced some challenges relating to managing a roster composed of different schools' players.

"The biggest barrier is offensive communication," Romine said. "We may do everything by hand signals, and they do verbiage. We're playing no-huddle. Trying to get kids to learn that is challenging."

But, again, Romine isn't too worried about his win-loss ledger after today. He wants to send off these former prep stars with a bang.

"I think we genuinely have really good kids on this team who are receptive to coaching, and they like to have a good time," Romine said. "That's a reason why they're still here and still wanting to play at this time."

Back on the gridiron

Nineteen area athletes will suit up at 7 p.m. today in the 28th annual Order of the Eastern Star All-Star Game, a football exhibition at Maroa-Forsyth's Walter Boyd Field. A closer look at the area players, who are all recent high school graduates:

Meet the local players

ATHLETE, TEAM, SCHOOL

Devin Burton, East, Blue Ridge

Dakota Denny, East, Tuscola

Keaton Eckstein, East, Unity

Benton Freeseman, East, Monticello

Jake Frost, East, Unity

Jeremy Gallivan, East, Unity

Bobby Goodnight, East, Unity

Caleb Helenthal, East, Monticello

Dawson Kaiser, East, Unity

Nate Logan, East, Argenta-Oreana

Joe Motley, East, Champaign Central

Noah Pierce, East, Tuscola

Jake Reno, East, Unity

Cale Sementi, East, Tuscola

Cale Shonkwiler, East, Unity

Bryson Smith, East, Monticello

Trevor Webb, East, Argenta-Oreana

Kobe Wells, East, Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond

Garrett Hayden, West, Clinton

Meet the local coaches

East team: Tuscola's Andy Romine

West team: Maroa-Forsyth's Josh Jostes