BETHANY - The preparations for the 68th annual Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Charity Football Classic are kicking into high gear.
The players are in just their second full day of camp, but the work toward Sunday's kickoff is well under way as they took a break from their triple-session practices to take part in media and photo day.
The obvious preparation is on the field where both teams are trying to grasp the schemes, terminology and playbook as quickly as possible.
THE?68TH?annual Rudy Mumley OVAC?All-Star Charity Football Classic is Sunday night at Wheeling Island Stadium. The head coaches for the teams, Mark Holenka of Shadyside and Mike Young of Wheeling Central, shake hands during media day festivities at Bethany College Monday afternoon. In the middle is Mumley Classic Game Director Bob Koch. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
However, the bonding and building chemistry has also gone exceptionally well for both teams, according to the respective Ohio and West Virginia head coaches Mark Holenka and Mike Young, that process got under way well before their arrival to the Bison campus.
"Social media has really changed a lot of that for these kids as compared to what it was years ago," Holenka said. "In years' past, the kids would have come here having heard of each other, but now it's like they've known each other for years."
Holenka and his coaching staff set up the Ohio room assignments with chemistry in mind. They made sure they placed kids from different schools by position with each other.
"We only have one situation where we've got two kids from the same school (Shadyside's Ian Baker and Chase Kinemond) in the same room," Holenka said. "While everyone here wants to win the game on Sunday, this game is all about making relationships with people that last a lifetime."
The work on the field has been a steady work-in-progress as with each practice session, the Buckeye squad begins to show signs of coming together the way Holenka had envisioned when he and his staff put the team together.
"We're going to see more and more improvement with each day, obviously," Holenka said. "The kids have really grasped the things that we've given them really well so far. Defensively, we've got some more work to do because we're not going to see as conventional an offense as what (West Virginia) will see."
As much progress as he saw on Monday, Holenka is a bit nervous that the players may wear down as the week goes along.
"We met until about 10 o'clock on Sunday and then we were headed for breakfast at 6:20 in the morning and then we're busy until about 10 o'clock (Monday), so it's a long day," Holenka said. "We're basically putting shells of things in with the limited time we have."
The triple sessions go away as the week progresses because there are nightly activities planned the balance of the week.
While there are still five days until kickoff, some of the players are already anxious to strap up the pads and go at it.
"It's been a fun couple of days, we've become good friends already and we're already ready to go," Kinemond said. "No one on this team was shy and we came together immediately. I think it'll carry over to the game, too."
ADVANCE TICKETS are currently on sale at a bevy of locations. The locations in East Ohio are Kroger in Bellaire, Martins Ferry and St. Clairsville; DeFelice Brothers Pizza in Shadyside and Weber's Drug Store in Woodsfield.
THE PLAYERS will get a chance to leave campus for the first time on Wednesday when they bus to the White Palace inside Wheeling Park for the annual George Strager Evening with the Stars Dinner.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org