Mike Vicars is having the time of his life. And yes, it involves football.
Vicars, who guided Genoa to the Division IV state semifinals last season, is an assistant coach for the Ohio squad in the PNC Big 33 Football Classic. The prestigious game, which will be played Saturday at 7 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pa., pits 33 of the top players from Ohio against 33 players from Pennsylvania.
"To me, it's Ohio's highest all-star coaching honor," Vicars said. "You're supposed to have Ohio's best 33 players against Pennsylvania's 33 best. I got here last Friday, so it's kind of a big commitment. We've got seven (future) Ohio State players on our team.
"They take it pretty serious, but we've had a lot of fun with them. They seem focused at practice. Pennsylvania has had the edge over the years, so I think this group of kids would like to win it."
Pennsylvania has won the last three Big 33 games, including 31-16 last season, and has a 9-7 edge in the series.
Now entering its 51st year, the PNC Big 33 Football Classic is often described as “the Super Bowl of high school football.”
There has never been a Super Bowl without a Big 33 alumni. Some of the game's alums include Tony Dorsett, Matt Millen, Joe Montana, Joe Namath, John Cappelletti, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Orlando Pace, Marvin Harrison and Ben Roethlisberger.
Vicars is no stranger to coaching in high school all-star games. Last summer he was an assistant coach for the North in the Ohio North-South All-Star game in Columbus. His son, Derrick, played defensive line for the North, which won big over the South squad.
The Ohio head coach for the Big 33 Classic is Mike Fell, the head coach at Ada High School. Working with the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association, Fell and assistant Bill Nees of Piqua High School selected the Ohio players and assistant coaches for this year's game.
The only local player this year is Southview receiver Shaun Joplin, who is still undecided on a college.
"They did a nice job selecting the team," Vicars said. "The overwhelming majority of guys really flat-out deserve to be here, and that's hard to do when you're selected from a huge pool of talent. It's a great experience. It's very humbling to be here."
Vicars, who is coaching the receivers, said the Ohio squad will hold 11 practices before the game.
"We drill primarily on group and team stuff, not too much individual stuff," he said. "We're running a spread offense, just with timing routes with quarterbacks and receivers. They want it to be an offensive game. It's pretty cool to watch future Ohio State defensive ends going against future Ohio
State offensive tackles. Our entire defensive front five are Ohio State guys.
"I'm coaching with a lot of good guys, especially Bill Nees from Piqua, who has been my all-time idol. I'm the receivers coach here, so I don't have to do a whole lot. I take a lot of pictures."
Vicars said the talent level on the Ohio squad is quite a bit different from what he's used to seeing.
"These are four- and five-star athletes that you don't normally get to coach every day," Vicars said. "The biggest difference is just plain speed and size. Football is football, but this is football at a much faster pace. I like to wear flip flops when it's warm, but the danger is you can get stepped on. I'm used to a certain speed where you can get out of the way, but I almost lost a couple toes here because I wasn't used to the speed."