Support our mission

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Europe’s first all-star high school football game since 1982 will kick off Nov. 12 at Grafenwoehr, DODDS-Europe athletic director Karen Seadore confirmed Monday.

While some details about the game — North vs. South or East vs. West, or whether there’ll be an admission charge, for example — were up in the air Monday, the ground-breaking event will take place, Seadore said.

Set for the Saturday after the Super Six championship tripleheader Nov. 5 in Baumholder, the game is the culmination of years of discussion, according to Seadore, who credited the volunteer efforts of Grafenwoehr garrison commander, Col. Avanulas Smiley for giving the project life.

“The idea started several years ago, but never came to fruition,” Seadore said. “This spring, Col. Smiley took the initiative to make the game a reality.”

Smiley said by phone Monday that it was a case of find-a-need-and-fill-it that encouraged him to revive and propel the project.

“It started out with a concern that the Grafenwoehr Military Community was not hosting any European championship tournaments,” Smiley said. “Most of those are in the Ramstein-Kaiserslautern-Heidelberg and Mannheim areas. That makes sense because it shortens travel for most of the teams. My real mission became to bring a championship event to Grafenwoehr, which is the home of nearly half the military population in Germany.”

Smiley said a football all-star game came to mind as an attempt to get Europe-based high school gridders a chance to play more than the maximum eight games, played by just six teams in Europe. Six others play seven and the rest six or fewer.

“When you compare that to the States, where teams play 10-12 games,” Smiley said, “our players don’t get the reps they would in the States. It’s a chance to get them more exposure.”

Smiley said he broached the idea for hosting an all-star game while talking to Bavaria District superintendent Mike Thompson, himself a sports enthusiast.

“I told Mike we’d be willing to host and provide backside logistics,” Smiley said of the way he broke through the all-star game logjam and installed lights and bleachers and lined the field for football. “We hosted a ‘Friday-Night-Lights’ event against a German team in September and knew we could be successful.”

The game, which is to kick off at 7 p.m., will be played at no cost to the school system, Seadore wrote. The teams will consist of standout juniors and seniors nominated by their coaches. Participants must pay their own travel and food expenses, although the community will provide areas for the players to spread out their sleeping bags.

“We know it’s not fair and equitable,” Seadore said about making the all-stars and their families pay their own way, “but if we used DODDS-Europe funds we’d have to pay for all-star games in other sports, too.”

Moreover, funding for this game was unavailable anyway because of the quick time-frame involved, Seadore said.

“It came up so fast,” she said, “we didn’t have time to budget for it.”

Head coaches for the game will be the six coaches whose teams advance to the Super Six, Seadore wrote. They’ll be granted administrative leave, but like the players, will be responsible for their own travel and living expenses.

Seadore said it won’t be possible to decide the game’s format until the players are selected on Wednesday.

“When we see who’s coming, we can decide whether to make it North vs. South or East vs. West. There are some who want to have a draft after the all-star practice sessions (which are to begin Nov. 9) with the two teams alternating picks.”

Coaches contacted by Stars and Stripes on Monday were enthusiastic.

Vilseck boss Jim Hall, whose Falcons are preparing for their European Division I semifinal game Saturday at Ramstein, called the game “a great opportunity for our players.”

Baumholder coach Carter Hollenbeck agreed. And although he didn’t know much about the role of Smiley and the Grafenwoehr garrison in realizing the project, Hollenbeck saluted them anyway.

“Someone’s put in a lot of work to make it happen,” he said.

Stripes in 7

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up