[NPI Float="left"]/Media/10/jpg/2008/11/TamboHeader.jpg[/NPI]Every football team has certain elements. Call it stereotyping or gross generalization, but every football team is made up of certain and distinct groups. That is just the way it is.
So when Ramona High School athletic director and head football coach Damon Baldwin got a call in February from coaching legend and television star John Shacklett, asking Baldwin to coach the North team in the Alex Spanos All Star Football Classic, Baldwin knew what had to be done.
Baldwin is the third Ramona football coach to be asked to coach the Spanos All Star classic in the 19-year history of the game. Mel Galli and his staff got the call. Bill Clark and his staff got the call, and Baldwin previously had been asked to be the offensive coordinator of the classic.
The Alex Spanos All Star Football Classic is the oldest-running all-star game in the state of California. Sponsored by the San Diego Chargers and California Interscholastic Federation, it is run by the High School Sports Association, which uses proceeds from the game for scholarships for student-athletes.
After the phone call from Shacklett, Baldwin contacted the football coaches from 31 schools in the North’s territory. The South has 70 school from which to choose.
Coaches sent faxes with nominations for athletes from their schools.
“North County is the power base for high school football in San Diego, so the South gets more schools from which to choose,” explained Baldwin. “It works out fairly. It is usually a close game.”
Baldwin got over 100 nominations. On March 22, Ramona’s Bulldog staff went over every nomination and had a player draft. The coaches called coaches of the players’ opponents and asked for recommendations. Then the players selected were called.
Some players had already started attending college and were enrolled in college summer programs in other states. Some just didn’t want to play in the game. Some said they would play and never showed up for the practices.
One had an excellent excuse. Ashton Barbour of Carlsbad High School will be attending the U.S. Air Force Academy and won’t be available for the game. He came to a practice to thank the coaches for picking him.
After the rosters were chosen, the North and the South teams met in May at the San Diego Chargers Complex. The rules for the game were explained and the two teams separated for their first team meeting.
The All Star Classic is successful for one reason: the San Diego Chargers.
The Chargers are the most generous team in the NFL. They are the only team that sponsors a high school all-star game and the only team that sponsors the high school finals. The Chargers pick up the tab for the Alex Spanos Classic. The Chargers rent Qualcomm Stadium for the CIF finals.
Forty-five student-athletes from 19 of the 31 schools committed to play for the North. At least one athlete from each of the 31 schools was invited. Thirty-nine showed up for the first practice on June 29.
When the players showed for the first practice at the Dawg Pound, the outcome was predictable.
Every team goes through a metamorphosis. The players get to know each other. The players and the coaches get to know each other and the players and the coaches bond.
All-star teams are a little different from most teams. Every player can play. Every player was one of the best players on his team and every player was an all-league selection. Every player who showed up loves to play football. And it shows.
Some things are constant on every football team.
The offensive line on every team has its own name. Some teams call them the hogs. The big uglies is another moniker often used. At one time the O-line at RHS was called the Pit Bulls.
The names are immaterial. The O-line has the big boys. They love to hit. They don’t get much, if any, recognition in the games.
They are the most disciplined group. They don’t act it, but they are usually the smartest when it comes to football smarts. They don’t need it. They have a way of drawing attention to themselves. If there is a prank or a joke pulled, the first suspect is usually an O-lineman.
The defensive line is similar to the O-line. The one big difference is they don’t have to be as disciplined. They get to fly around and make plays. The O-line has to be disciplined. The D-line has to be turned loose. They get more recognition in the games.
The running backs are the workhorses. They get the ball more often than any other group on offense, so they get hit more than anybody on offense or defense.
There are rules to protect most positions. There are no rules to protect running backs except the face mask rule. They are survivors.
The linebackers are the hitters. They are like heat-seeking missiles. They find the ball and they attack. Linebackers are not taught to hit. You don’t teach linebackers. You find them.
Defensive backs are the best athletes. They have to be able to run, cover, tackle, play the run and play the pass. They are usually the most cocky. They usually talk the most trash. They have to have the shortest memory. If they get beat, they have to forget about it. They usually don’t admit getting beaten anyway.
The wide receivers are usually the most skilled and try to compete with the defensive backs for the trash-talking title. They have to be fast, run disciplined routes and be able to bounce back from big hits. They are not protected by blockers like running backs, so they get hit the hardest, either by the best athletes or by the linebackers in the open field. They are asked to block on running plays. Most never do. The really good ones are really good blockers.
Tight ends are a combination of wide receiver and offensive lineman. They are big guys with speed. They can block and catch. They usually are not as crazy as offensive linemen or as cocky as wide receivers.
The quarterbacks have to be able to handle the heat. They have to know the entire offense and understand what the defense is doing. They have to be fast thinkers and decision makers. They don’t talk as much as the D-backs or wide outs but they have to be very confident and they have to gain confidence. They, too, must have short memories. They have to forget about the bad passes and decisions and get on with the next play.
Kickers are kickers. Enough said. Kickers are like old paint and cereal. They are flakes. They usually don’t play another position so they can’t hit anybody to get out their frustrations. They find other ways to cope with the pressure.
There has never been so much talent on the field at the Dawg Pound as there was last week during All Star practice.
The players from Army-Navy Academy, Calvary Christian, Carlsbad, El Camino, Escondido, Fallbrook, La Costa Canyon, Mt. Carmel. Orange Glen, Poway, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Buena Vista, Ramona, San Pasqual, Valley Center and Westview all had their differences, but they all had more in common. They were all football players. They all love the game and they all play hard. They all belonged. They all deserved to be all stars.