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Winning an all-star game

by Chuck Smock

Bob Shaffer knows what it takes to win the Sertoma Classic All-Star football game.

The key is getting 45 players from more than a dozen different high school teams to play as a unit with only three days of preparation, said the Truckee Wolverines head coach who guided the West squad to a 24-6 win in 1996.

“Basically, we have three days to try to get all the pertinent stuff in you need to win an all-star game,” Shaffer said Monday during the break between the team’s first two practices. “Defense is easier to teach and it’s usually ahead of the offense. We’re trying to keep the offense somewhat simple. We figure if we can do a few plays well, we’d be better off than trying to do a lot of plays that are just going to confuse everyone.”

The 18th annual Sertoma Classic will start at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Reed High School in Sparks.

Highway 395 serves as the approximate dividing line for the East-West showdown that will feature 90 players from 28 2A, 3A and 4A high schools in Nevada and the Lake Tahoe area.

Douglas seniors Matt Tretton, Joel Kruger and Garrett Anderson will play for the West team. Kruger and Anderson will play at the two inside linebacker positions, while Tretton will play on the offensive line.

All three Tigers were excited to put the pads on again.

“It feels great. It’s awesome,” Kruger said Monday during the break between practices at Bishop Manogue High School. “We’re going over the base defense and learning a couple of tricks.”

While the defense was walking through situational drills at the west end of the field, the offensive unit was running plays at full speed on the east end.

Anderson and Kruger laughed as a sweaty Tretton carried a blocking pad off the field at the end of the first practice.

“It was fun,” Tretton said as his teammates kidded him about how easy their workout was. “But I’m probably going to wake up tomorrow and not even be able to move.”

Anderson said the players will be allowed to enter and leave the game at any time at their own discretion. Kruger added that he and Anderson want to play at least a few plays side-by-side.

“The plan is to get out there together,” Kruger said.

Shaffer coached the Truckee Wolverines to Nevada state championships in 1998 and 1996, as well as a runner-up finish in 1997. He was voted 3A Coach of the Year for 1998.

The West coach said he and his fellow coaches will try to devote time to every aspect of the game during the six practices that conclude today with a 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. session and a 6:30 to 8 p.m. workout at Bishop Manogue.

“We’re going to emphasize special teams,” Shaffer said. “In an all-star game, a breakdown on special teams can change the complexion of the game. A punt return for a touchdown or a long kickoff that leads to good field position can change the momentum. We’re going to stress containment and making tackles.”

Fernley’s Dave Hart will coach the East team for the third straight year. He coached the East team to victory in 1995 and 1997.

The Sertoma Classic is an all-volunteer, fund-raising event sponsored each year by the Sparks Sertoma Club. This year, Nevada Bell has become a major sponsor of the game. All proceeds are donated back into the community through local charities. Additionally, funds from the Classic are donated every year to academic and extra-curricular activities of participating high schools.

And while winning the game is the goal of every player and coach on both sides of the ball, Shaffer was quick to point out another important aspect of the event.

“I think the kids have a lot of fun,” he said. “And I think the game breaks down some of the barriers between the schools. It creates a friendly rivalry and gives them a chance to get to know each other.”

For more information about the Sertoma Classic All-Star football game, contact Classic chairman Gene Maddux at (775) 358-0112.