Eleven players earn honors on both sides of ball
November 25, 2007
The All-Europe high school football team for 2007 is a case of distilled excellence.
A six-coach selection panel chaired by DODDS-Europe athletic director Karen Seadore chose just 37 individuals — from only 16 schools — to fill the 48 slots available on Europe’s annual all-star list.
Just 37 were needed because 11 players, six of them linemen, made the team on both offense and defense. By contrast, only four players made the 2006 squad on both sides of the ball, and one of those was a kicker.
“We were just trying to put the best people out there,” panelist Mike Laue of Bitburg said. “There are some years when there is a group of players that just jumps out at you.”
Two of those who jumped out in ’07 as two-way performers did the same thing last year — running back/linebacker Anton Harris and lineman Randall Pelletier of Laue’s Bitburg Barons, the Division II runner-up.
Harris and Pelletier led 12 holdover choices from 2006. Repeating from 2006 as one-way choices were Brock Blankenship of AFNORTH, Storm Freeman and John Willis of Ansbach and Shali Thompson of Heidelberg. The rest of the 2006 holdovers made the team on both sides of the ball this time. They are Michael Kelly and Scott Sublousky of D-I champion Ramstein, Xavier Sheppard and Jacob Burnside of D-II winner Ansbach, Evan Stroupe of D-III champ Baumholder, and Jordan Fackler of D-I runner-up Heidelberg.
Evan Canfield of Ramstein, Terron Geter of Bitburg and Thonda Taylor of Heidelberg, all first-time choices, complete a starting 11 who can play at the top level either way.
That 11 of the 2007 choices happened to be the continent’s best at two positions, the panelists agreed, was not a result of the diminishing field of candidates from the dwindling school population — 26 schools, compared to 45 in 1989.
“There were over 500 players at summer camp [at Ansbach in August],” panelist and Ramstein coach Glenn Porter said, “and I saw over 20 really good linemen. There’s a lot of talent here still.”
Talent, according to panelist Marcus George of Ansbach, that other systems openly envied.
“Look at a player like Xavier Sheppard,” he said Tuesday of his running back/linebacker choice for 2007. “Six-feet, 204 pounds, 4.6 in the 40-yard dash, bench-presses 300 pounds — he’s just a no-brainer [for two-way status]. I was talking to a coach from the Pacific, and he said they haven’t seen anybody like that over there.”
The talent percolates through all four divisions in DODDS-Europe. Even though just one player from nine-man Division IV filled an All-Europe slot — running back Gabe Williams of European champion Hanau — as opposed to 14 from the four D-I teams, 24 from the 10 D-II teams and nine from the eight D-III teams, Williams’ skills would have earned him playing time at any level.
“He could start for me,” Steve Jewell of D-II Wiesbaden said flatly of Williams.
Although he wasn’t on the selection panel, Jewell could form his opinion because he and Europe’s other coaches have the opportunity, via summer camp and the championship quadrupleheader, to see players outside their own schedule.
“We get to see a lot of players, so we have some context on them,” Laue said.
Players are nominated for All-Europe by their individual coaches, Ansbach’s George said. Then the job goes to the panel.
“We do a lot of preparation,” George said of the selection process. “We had long conversations about the nominees. If we hadn’t seen a player, we ask the coaches, ‘Did you see him play? Did you play against him? Was he effective against you? Would you like to have him on your team?’”
The result was 27 seniors and 10 juniors any coach would like to have.
“Regardless of the content of a player’s nomination form, the selection committee challenges each player’s nomination with the same evaluative criterion,” panelist Ed Lynch of Hohenfels wrote Tuesday in an e-mail.
“‘Can this player be a standout when competing with the best high school football players in Europe?’ All of this year’s selected players possess that quality.”