CENTRAL COAST—For some of the local athletes selected to play in the 36th annual Central Coast All-Star Football Game, the contest represents one last chance to put on their pads and compete with and against their friends.
Athletes who attend a school in Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey and south Santa Clara counties make up the rosters of two teams that will square off at Rabobank Stadium in Salinas tonight at 7pm.
Salinas High coach Sten Zenk will coach Tatum’s Treehouse and North Monterey County High coach Juan Cuevas the Children’s Shopping Tour.
“I think it’s a pretty big honor,” said Cuevas, who was a former defensive assistant coach at Salinas and part of the all-star game for eight seasons. “I always had a goal of one day wanting to be an all-star head coach and this year when they called me, I had to take the opportunity.”
Each year the coaches of the game choose to represent a local charity. Their team takes on the name of their respective charity. Donation bins will be set up around the stadium to support these causes.
The money raised from the game will be donated to each charity and the winning team will be awarded a bonus donation for their cause. And make no mistake: unlike the NFL Pro Bowl, the players in high school football all-star games won’t think twice about laying a good thump on their opponents.
“Our kids are competitors, they’re going to compete,” Cuevas said. “They understand for most of these kids it’s going to be their last high school game or maybe even their last game, ever.”
Cuevas knows the players want to win the game and the coaches encourage them to be competitive. But, they also emphasize the importance of playing for charities.
“You’re playing for something meaningful and they’ve accepted that, as well,” Cuevas said. “It’s a special night, it’s a lot of fun and you’re going to have memories and friends you’re going to make forever.”
Aptos’ Kyle Luis, North Monterey County’s Angel Caballero, Richard Mendoza, Martin Ramirez and Nico Torres, and St. Francis’ Joshua Alvarez, Noel Aquino, Johrdan Garibay and Charlie Valencia will be part of team Children’s Shopping Tour.
Children’s Shopping Tour will also include players from Alisal, Alvarez, Greenfield, King City, NMC, Pacific Grove, Palma, Rancho San Juan, San Benito, Soledad and Stevenson.
Cuevas said playing for Children’s Shopping Tour is special to him because it targets and identifies families in North Monterey County that are in need of assistance during the holiday season.
“We have a really high population of kids that are classified as homeless, so it really hit home and I thought it was a perfect fit when I saw them on the list,” Cuevas said. “I’m really happy that this game can help some kids in need, that’s what it’s all about. I love kids and it’s just another way to help.”
Monte Vista Christian School’s Andrew Hendrickson and Aidan Williams will be among the players competing for Tatum’s Treehouse.
Tatum’s Treehouse will also include players from Alisal, Carmel, Christopher, Gilroy, Gonzales, King City, Marina, North Salinas, Salinas, San Benito, Seaside and Stevenson.
“The premier post-high school football event on the Central Coast brings together some of the most outstanding high school athletes from across the area.” All-Star committee chair Mali Cuda said. “We love football and know local community wants to see this game continue.”
Cuevas added that it’ll also be exciting going up against his former mentor.
“Now I get to compete against [Zenk] and I’ve never had that opportunity before, so that’s a lot of fun,” Cuevas said.
Sports editor Emanuel Lee contributed to this story
IF YOU GO
Central Coast All-Star Football Game
When: Jan. 14, 7pm
Where: Rabobank Stadium, Salinas
Tickets: $15 for general admission, $10 for students with ID and those 65 and over, and $5 for all youth football players and cheerleaders wearing their jersey or cheer jacket. Parking is $5.