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READY TO COACH — OVAC Rudy Mumley All-Star Game Director Corey Murphy, center, is joined by Ohio head coach Mike McKenzie, left, and West Virginia head coach John Kelley during media day activities held Monday inside the McDonough Center on the campus of Wheeling University. – Seth Staskey

WHEELING — The cliche says the world is much smaller today than it once was.

That’s proven accurate each summer in mid-July when the all stars of Ohio and West Virginia report to camp to begin preparations for the annual OVAC Rudy Mumley All-Star Football Game.

There was a time when players reported to camp and basically only knew players they may have read about or saw highlights of during the course of the season. With the rise in travel sports and obviously social media, the players reported to Wheeling University on Sunday and knew basically everyone on their respective team.

For that, head coaches Mike McKenzie (Ohio) and John Kelley (West Virginia) are thankful because it’s allowed the chemistry of their respective teams to form almost immediately.

“The camaraderie is really growing quickly,” McKenzie, who is the head coach at Beaver Local, said. “You can see the kids already really enjoying each other and having fun together.”

McKenzie, who has never coached the OVAC All-Star Game prior to this season, has been a part of other all-star games in the Tri-State Area and has seen chemistry be an issue on teams.

“I’ve coached in games where we’ve had a couple of guys who thought they were better than everyone else and didn’t really talk to anyone else,” McKenzie admitted. “We don’t have any of those guys here. All of the guys are mingling and it’s a fun, talented group.”

On the other side, Kelley, who is a 1968 graduate of Oak Glen High School, is a big proponent of the OVAC Game and has stressed that to his players, too.

“There are no rivalries on this team. These kids have a beat Ohio mentality and, as a coach, I love to see that,” Kelley smiled. “We have a nice combination of kids from Single A through Triple A football and they’re all good football players.”

And through four practices, they’ve more than bought in.

“The two-hour practices go by like a click of the fingers because it’s that enjoyable,” Kelley said. “These kids are eating it up. They’re volunteering to help anyway they can.”

Neither team allowed the rain of Sunday or Monday morning slow it down as they started their preparations.

“Our guys wanted to go out in the rain. They said they’re tough,” McKenzie smiled.

Not only did they show their toughness, the Ohio squad made good use of their time on the field, too.

With already a short week in which to get everything done and many of the events that surround the OVAC Game getting cranked up as early as this evening with the George Strager Evening with the Stars at the White Palace inside Wheeling Park, making the most of the time on the practice field is a necessity.

“We wanted to get most of our stuff installed (on Sunday and Monday), so now, as the week goes on, we’re more team stuff and start building on things,” McKenzie said.

West Virginia also hit the practice field three times on Monday and Kelley really has been impressed with how well the players have picked up the University High School system.

“As you get more and more things (installed), you really get excited because you can see this kid can really play or we can use this kid here or there,” Kelley said. “We’re run a little ragged with having to get here and there. As coaches, we just want to practice and get ready to play, but these events are important to the heritage of this game that the kids get to experience the whole thing.”



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