Holmdel High School will host tonight’s U.S. Army All Shore Gridiron Classic for the first time in the 35-year history of the All-Star game which matches many of the best recently-graduated high school football players from Ocean County against those from Monmouth County. 

Some of the big names will be missing because of college commitments or restrictions and as is often the case Monmouth County seems to have more talent of paper.  Part of that is they have 26 schools to choose from with Ocean County picking from among 17.  While talent is a major factor this game is often won by the team that was able to better adjust to the difficult task of putting things together with just 5 days of practice.

For that reason most of these games don’t provide a lot of offense….last year Ocean County came out on top by the score of 6-3.  My guess would be that two touchdowns tonight would be enough to collect a victory.  Monmouth County leads the overall series 18-15 with one tie.

Rob Davis, who played in the 1989 game and guided Barnegat to its first division title last fall, is the head coach of the Ocean squad while the honors in Monmouth County go to to Ed Gurrieri of Manalapan, who in his first season led the Braves to the Class A North championship.  Among the most well-known players who will be on the field at Holmdel tonight are record-breaking running backs Kalyph Hardy of Central and Manalapan’s John Sieczkowski.

The game is sponsored by the Shore Football Coaches Foundation, who at halftime will induct two of their most successful and longest tenured members into their Hall of Fame.  Lacey’s Lou Vircillo and Keyport’s Mike Ciccotelli have 65 years of combined head coach experience and 468 victories to show for it.  They have won numerous championships and sent many players onto college and they’ll be back on the sidelines this fall.   Yours truly, whose contributions pale in comparison, will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame tonight.

On what looks like an ideal night for the game, kickoff is at 7pm and admission is $10.  For those who want to get a preview of the upcoming high school season, Lacey and Howell will meet in the finals of the 7-on-7 tournament at 6:15.  Ironically Howell won it last year and Lacey the year before.