For years, high school football players in San Luis Obispo County have had to watch as their peers elsewhere got to play in postseason all-star games.
That won’t be the case anymore, thanks to a new game that organizers also envision becoming a much-needed fundraiser for schools’ programs, which in recent years have continuously suffered from state budget cuts.
The first annual Central Coast All-Star Football Classic, which will be held June 4 at 7 p.m. at Pioneer Valley High in Santa Maria, will feature graduating seniors from the area’s 14 PAC 7 and Los Padres League schools, pitting an all-San Luis Obispo County squad against an all-Northern Santa Barbara County one.
Lately, the state’s ongoing fiscal woes have led to unforeseen burdens being placed on volunteers and parents to keep programs afloat and maintaining a status quo when it comes to travel and equipment expenses.
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With that in mind, 500 tickets for the game will be allotted to each of the schools to pre-sell at $10 apiece, and raffle tickets for a $25,000 car to be won at halftime will also be pre-sold.
All of the proceeds from the game will stay with the respective schools.
“This is a great fundraiser because there’s no split,” said Bill Stansbury, formerly the head coach at Paso Robles and one of 12 members of the game’s planning committee. Organizers are still actively seeking further sponsorships for the game, which can be arranged at its website, CentralCoastFCA.org/football.
“It just made sense to try to get a game going that would raise money for the schools,” said fellow committee member Greg Dickinson, formerly the head coach at Pioneer Valley and Righetti.
Local coaches have submitted nominations for the game’s rosters, which will be comprised of 50 players each.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for the athletes in this area,” Stansbury said. “This gives them a chance to perform with and against their peers.”
Being named to an all-league team will be a paramount part of the criteria in assembling the rosters, Dickinson said.
Alternates will also be chosen, in case initial selections are unable to play.
“It’s exciting,” Arroyo Grande coach Tom Goossen said. “I’ll be interested to see the kids get together and go at it one more time, to see them as teammates rather than as competitors.”
All-star selections are planned to gradually be announced on a school-by-school basis beginning in February.
Stemming from a variety of logistical difficulties, there has long been a void for such a game involving San Luis Obispo County — in fact, for more than 20 years, Stansbury said.
A short drive away, meanwhile, the Suburban Kiwanis Club of Santa Barbara has been putting on the all-Santa Barbara County “North vs. South” game for the past 43 years.
Steady growth throughout the Central Coast, exemplified by the creation of Pioneer Valley and Nipomo high schools, helped galvanize support for a new game that could better reflect reconfigured rivalries throughout the area.
Dickinson saw that need become more glaring since moving to the area in 1991, as did former St. Joseph star Pat Cusack, now a car dealership general manager at Santa Maria Honda, who was also instrumental in getting the game off the ground.
“(Dickinson) and I had spoken about the fact that this area wasn’t represented from an all-star standpoint,” said Cusack, an Arroyo Grande resident. “To have (San Luis Obispo County schools) not be part of an all-star game doesn’t make sense.”
In future years, Dickinson said, the game could conceivably be opened up to also include smaller schools from the around the area, such as those from the 8-man Coast Valley League, or current independent or non-Southern Section programs such as Mission Prep and Coast Union.
Coaching staffs from throughout the PAC 7 and LPL will be represented.
A week’s worth of practices will commence in late May. San Luis Obispo High is currently penciled in as the practice site for the San Luis Obispo County team, with St. Joseph slated as the practice site for the Northern Santa Barbara County team.
The location of the game itself is open for future years, committee members said, and could rotate, although if the game becomes a big enough draw, a hope among organizers is that it could eventually be held at Cal Poly’s Alex G. Spanos Stadium, where high school divisional championship games have been played in the past when they involved two area teams.