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FOOTBALL: State bids goodbye to East-West Game, hello to Wolverine-Buckeye border war

By: Scott Burnstein, July 20, 2013, 12:00 am

Out with the old, in with the new.

Following 33 storied years, the annual Michigan High School Football Coaches Association East-West All-Star Game is no longer.

This week, the MHSFCA announced it was entering into an agreement to play an inter-state all-star game against Ohio starting next year and cancelling the East-West Game, a staple of the offseason in the Michigan prep ranks since 1981.

The new game, aptly named the Ohio-Michigan Border Classic, will kick-off June 14, 2014 at Findlay University in the heart of Buckeye country and hopes to capitalize on the natural border animosity that has long existed between the pair of Midwest rustbelt regions (see the bitter border battle that is the Michigan-Ohio State college football rivalry).

Each state will field 40-man rosters that will be announced a week apart in February. This is in contrast to the 88 in-state players traditionally selected to participate in the East-West Game.

Over its more than three decades in existence, the East-West Game has produced tons of future stars at the next level and eventual NFL draft picks (see Andre Rison, Tyrone Wheatley, Bart Scott, among dozens of others).

Last month in the final East-West Game held at Grand Valley State in Allendale, the East clobbered the West 20-3, behind steady play under center at quarterback by Western Michigan-signee Cam Thomas (South Lyon East), a breakout performance in the backfield from Keymonne Gabriel (Detroit Loyola) and a stifling defensive effort that saw two successful goal-line stands in the second half.

The coaches for the inaugural Ohio-Michigan Border Classic will be announced in early December.

Ohio had been in a decades-long all-star rivalry with the state of Pennsylvania, called the “The Big 33,”, however that series was discontinued late last year, after a rich legacy was built through names like Namath, Montana, Marino and Woodson.

The change in all-star games also brings a change in the rules for choosing a team. The goal, as made clear by both the MHSFCA and its counterparts in Ohio is to get the “best of the best” in both states to play.

Therefore, unlike the East-West Game where a player had to be nominated by his coach, the statewide Michigan all-star team will be hand-picked by the MHSFCA. In addition, as opposed to the former format where two players from the same high school couldn’t both get the nod, the Ohio-Michigan Border Classic will have no restrictions on the amount of players spawning from a single team.

The decision to switch formats has been met with mixed reaction from the state’s coaching contingent.