Athens Football Preview (copy)

Athens Head Coach Jack Young, second from left, talks to the troops during a timeout in a game in 2019.

HARRISBURG — Last year, Athens head football coach Jack Young was tabbed to coach the East squad in the annual East-West All Star game that accompanies the annual Big 33 Classic. That game was scrubbed due to the pandemic. Rather than change their selections for 2021, the Pennsylvania Football Coaches’ Association tabbed the same coaches who would have had the honor last season.

Then the organization added a twist. This is the first time there will be East-West All-Star games for both the large (4A and over) and small (3A and under) schools.

“The exciting thing about this year is that we’re not only playing an East-West game, we’re playing two East-West games,” said Young. “The Pennsylvania Football Coaches’ Association has turned the East-West tradition into two games. To me that’s very exciting. I think that’s going to open doors for schools to get kids to participate in those games that typically fall short of participating in those games.”

The game that Young is coaching in is the Class 4A-6A East-West All-Star game. The game is slated for Sunday, May 30 at 5 p.m. at Central Dauphin’s High School’s Landis Field in Harrisburg.

The Class A-3A East West All-Star game — with North Penn Head Coach Tom Dickinson as the West team’s head coach — will start at 1 p.m. on the same day at the same location. The Big 33 game will be played at the same location on Monday, May 31.

“Our association’s really active and we’ve been working in this for a number of years now,” said Young. “For Pennsylvania football I think it’s just a tremendous feat for us to continue moving forward and keep promoting our kids. That’s what it’s all about. As coaches, we get to reap some of those benefits in being able to coach in these special games.”

Although Young said “it’s really exciting,” he also noted that their’s an air of uncertainty.

“I’m not sure what this year’s going to entail. I don’t know how many fans we can have, if we can have fans at all. It’s going to be an unbelievable weekend as we progress. If everybody keeps on doing their part and we keep moving in the right direction we’re going to see a heck of a football weekend in Harrisburg on Memorial Day weekend.”

With Young and Dickinson as head coaches for these games — and not coaching against each other — the spotlight will shine a touch brighter on the state’s northern tier.

“I think that only makes it better for our region,” said Young. “Moving forward, hopefully, our region will even get some kids to play in the game.”

Having two NTL coaches is a good start.

“I think there’s a lot to be said for the Northern Tier,” said Young. “We have a great group of coaches. There are a handful of us who have been around for a long time. Coach Dickinson and I joked a little bit about how, when you’re around long enough, you win those milestone games. When you’re around long enough, those things happen and when you’re around long enough, you get recognized by your peers. Tommy and I have both been very active in our state association. I don’t think that hurt us at all in getting these kinds of positions.”

Had the 2020 game been played, Athens’ Jack Young would have coached in the game 30 years after his father, who coached in Towanda, did.

“We’ll be the first father-son to ever coach in the Big 33 game,” said Young. “It was supposed to happen last year last year. We’ll try it again this year. That’s just a little bit of the icing on the cake. It hits me a little bit differently, realizing that. When I think about that, it’s kind of crazy.”

The East-West game began in 2001 and there have been 18 games in the series with the East holding a 10-8 edge. Two of Young’s players — Shane Raupers and Troy Stivason — have played in the game.

“It just makes me proud to be a part of it,” said Young.

It isn’t his first foray as he was an assistant a few years ago.

Young said he was completely blindsided when he learned he’d been selected.

“I didn’t see it coming at all,” said Young “I was in a meeting in State College and I had stepped down as vice president of the association in order to become the state wrestling interpreter. I submitted my resignation and walked away with a little bit of sadness in my heart but (I was) pursuing some of my other passions and then they blindsided me with that. It kind of hit me all at once what a feat that was. My peers, recognizing, I guess, the time and efforts I’d put in with a tremendous group of coaches that have been around me and my family not only allowing me but supporting me in this goofy passion I have.”

According to the web site, both games will be live streamed on PAFootballNews.com.

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