Most of the seniors playing in the Sliman’s East West Football Classic on Saturday are sad they’ll be competing in their final high school football game.
One of the players on the West squad is absolutely ecstatic.
“I didn’t think there was a chance that I’d get to play in this all-star game,” Wellington linebacker Ryan Alspach said. “Words can’t describe how excited I am about this weekend.”
Alspach was born with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a condition he didn’t know about until his right arm swelled up 4 inches and turned purple after a summer football camp in July following his junior year.
“The veins and arteries in my shoulders were all crossed up and twisted when I was born,” he said. “As I grew and got bigger, they started to compress and compress until everything stopped working.”
An ultrasound revealed Alspach had a 9-inch blood clot between his neck and armpit and he was informed he’d need surgery. He was also told he would not be able to play his senior season, and maybe never again.
“They cleared me for this game,” Alspach said. “Then Monday I have to go back to the doctor’s and start looking at the left side.”
Alspach joins a linebacker squad that includes Chad Metcalf from Brookside, Guy Schuler from Amherst, Malcolm Thomas from Lorain and Zack Hofecker from Firelands.
“We’ve really been able to jell as a group because everyone knows how to play the position really well,” said Hofecker, an All-Ohio second-team selection last season.
“We really want to win this game this year. The East won last year, so we want to bring it back to the West side.”
Clearview, Oberlin and Vermilion are the other schools that make up the West team. The roster is littered with All-Ohio and All-Lorain County talent, including Oberlin’s Jason Moore, who was the county’s player of the year last season.
“This is the best of the best and I’m really enjoying the experience,” Moore said. “I already knew a lot of these guys because Lorain County is kind of small and I also played basketball and baseball with a lot of them.”
Joining Moore on the wide receiver corps is Amherst’s Kyle Kelley, Phoenix teammate Mattayo Wyman and Clearview’s Ryan Vargo.
“Ryan used to go to Oberlin … he’s a childhood friend of mine,” Moore said. “So we’ve all gotten along really well.”
Moore, who played about five different positions for Oberlin and never left the field, is glad he can concentrate on the position he’ll play in a few weeks when he leaves for the University of Findlay.
“I kind of got used to (being on the field all the time),” Moore said. “But now I’ll be able to reserve some energy and I’ll try to dominate when I’m in at receiver.”
It will probably take Alspach a few plays to get back into top form, as he hasn’t stepped onto a football field since Wellington’s playoff loss to Kenton in 2011.
“Honestly, it’s kind of a weird feeling,” he said. “It’s been so long since I put pads on that the first time I did it, it was kind of surreal … almost indescribable.”
Alspach was working out with all-star teammate Dylan Weidrick a few weeks ago when Weidrick told him Dukes coach Matt Stoll had asked if Alspach would be interested in playing in the game.
“There was no hesitation … it was an automatic yes,” Alspach said. “I wanted to thank everyone involved that helped me have this opportunity. I kind of felt like after missing my senior year that my name had been forgotten.
“This whole situation has gave me inspiration. It’s drove me to get better on and off the field.”
LINEBACKERS: Chad Metcalf, Brookside; Guy Schuler, Amherst; Malcolm Thomas, Lorain; Ryan Alspach, Wellington; Zack Hofecker, Firelands.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Jake Bruder, Amherst; Travis Szabo, Lorain; Stephen Peterson, Firelands; Deion Arnold, Clearview; Brandon Aviles, Wellington.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Brad Cole, Vermilion; Bryan Walker, Clearview; Dakota Dodge, Firelands; Garret Shaw, Vermilion.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Quentin Horton, Oberlin; Brad Markovich, Firelands; Matt Ortiz, Clearview; Stephen Moody, Amherst; Antonio Nicholson, Oberlin.
RECEIVERS: Kyle Kelley, Amherst; Jason Moore, Oberlin; Mattayo Wyman, Oberlin; Ryan Vargo, Clearview.
QUARTERBACKS: Eric Lamb, Amherst; Dylan Weidrick, Wellington.
RUNNING BACKS: Kalif Townsel, Oberlin; Chad Anderson, Clearview; Pablo Gonzalez, Lorain.
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.