Top players to show skills in All-Star game
Wiesbaden’s football renaissance continues Saturday as the newly-crowned Division I champions play host to and fill up the roster of the annual DODDS-Europe Football All-Star Game.
The North vs. South game, which kicks off at 4:30 p.m. at Wiesbaden High School, features a total of 64 players representing 21 schools. Wiesbaden and Ramstein, the two participants in last weekend’s Division I title game, lead the selections with seven players apiece. The Warriors beat the Royals 38-21 to knock off the defending champions.
Division II champion Hohenfels is represented only by running back David Vidovic, the offensive Most Valuable Player of Hohenfels’ 38-35 win over SHAPE. The runner-up Spartans place three players on the roster in running back Conner Manning and linemen Clay Coon and Taylor Ator.
The North, with four Division I schools assigned to its region, holds a decided advantage on paper. Three representatives each from Kaiserslautern and Lakenheath join the sizeable Wiesbaden and Ramstein contingents. A four-player group from powerful Bitburg, the four-time Division II champion unseated by Hohenfels two weeks ago, further presses the Northern edge.
The South will fight back behind the star power of Vidovic and a combined nine players from Division I schools Patch and Vilseck. Division II playoff teams Ansbach, Naples and Vicenza will each contribute four players to the cause.
Saturday’s game represents the third consecutive year for the postseason exhibition. The North had a similar perceived advantage in last year’s game at Vilseck, but the supposedly overmatched South secured a 29-10 victory. The North won in 2011 as the game was rebooted after a 30-year hiatus.
DODDS-Europe coaches nominate their own players for the game and are asked to assign a star rating to each nominee, Ansbach coach and game co-organizer Marcus George explained. A five-star rating indicates the coach considers the nominee the best at his position in Europe; one star means the player is simply a solid contributor. The final roster is selected from that list while accounting for the roster’s positional balance and an effort to include a player from each team with a worthy nominee.
The All-Star Game is the centerpiece of a multiple-day experience for the selected players, a bookend when paired with the well-attended August preseason camp that kicks off the fall. Players were scheduled to arrive Wednesday to check in, conduct a first-day practice and enjoy a team dinner and bowling excursion. Group meals and movies are scheduled around two-a-day practices Thursday and Friday. A morning awards banquet opens Saturday’s game-day schedule; the players head home after game’s end.