The 56th Optimist All-Star Football Classic takes place tomorrow at noon at Del Oro High School in Loomis.
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The annual North-South matchup pits selected seniors and benefits Camp Relles. Oak Ridge, which made it to the section finals, sends six players while Ponderosa has one participant.
Saturday’s date, coming on the heels of the just completed state bowl games, is a departure from year’s past when the game was played in July. Optimist game officials hope to retain talent who might opt out once college deals are accepted.
Trojan quarterback Jason Samuels will suit up for the South squad. Samuels, one of the area’s top quarterbacks after an injury-free season, completed 192-of-326 attempts for 2,595 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Byron Spain, one of Samuels’ principle targets during the season will also play along with Trojan center Kareem Ballal. Ballal anchored a strong Oak Ridge offensive line while Spain had 57 catches for 918 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Ballal is joined on the offensive line by Trojan brothers Tuita and Hekoti Chapman for Saturday’s showcase. The trio was instrumental in guarding Samuels throughout the season.
Trojan pass-rushing specialist Zach Claiborne is also on the roster. Claiborne led the entire state in sacks with 25.5 and was just named the All Metro Defensive Player of the Year.
Curtis Catron represents the Bruins. His solid play helped elevate Ponderosa to a postseason spot as he finished with a 4.5 tackles-per-game average and had three sacks.
Saturday will also see the inaugural All-City Small Schools Football Classic kickoff at 5:30 on the Del Oro field. This game, featuring Division IV-VI players, raises money for area food banks and athletic scholarships for D-IV-VI schools.
Golden Sierra, last season’s undefeated Sierra Delta League champ, has three players selected: running back Adam Sewell (911 yards, 11 touchdowns), linebacker Zander Mishler (team-leading 119 tackles) and two-way lineman Ryan Echeveria.
Union Mine sends running back Sean Tow and lineman Augie Ahuna. Tow, one of the area’s premier backs when healthy, battled through early-season injuries but still amassed 1,293 yards and 12 touchdowns. Ahuna averaged nine tackles per game for the 2-8 Diamondbacks.