As part of the first-ever North Georgia vs. Central Georgia Senior All-Star Bowl, some of the top talent from Carroll and its surrounding counties will be on display Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Local players representing the Central Georgia Senior All-Stars are Ryan Helton of Central, Jermaine Hutchinson of Villa Rica, Nii-Okai Reindorf of Haralson County and Armani Phillips and Jamaris Spear of Carrollton. Frank Vohun, former head coach at the University of West Georgia, as well as Villa Rica and Haralson County high schools, has returned to the sidelines this week to coach the Central All-Stars.
For the players, who are practicing at Carrollton High School’s Grisham Stadium this week, the opportunity to gear up for one last high school game is something that is a little bittersweet, but they are ultimately grateful for the honor.
“I just want to thank God first for this great opportunity. I’m thanking Him for the opportunity. These are great players to be around. Just one more time to just let it loose. It’s the last high school game you’ll ever play, so there’s no holding back,” noted Phillips, who played linebacker for Trojans during his senior campaign.
Reindorf, who finished his HC career as the Rebels’ all-time leader in rushing attempts, rushing touchdowns and rushing yards, said it’s been an enjoyable week practicing with a bunch of guys that he’s suited up against over the years.
“It’s been fun getting to know these guys out here. You know, see all the competition and stuff. It’s way different than high school football. It’s a lot faster and there’s better athletes out here,” Reindorf said. “It’s a chance just to go out there and execute the plays and go full speed, because it could be the last time putting your helmet on.”
Hutchinson, a two-way starter at running back and linebacker for the Wildcats this past season, has also enjoyed the camaraderie shared among his new teammates.
“Well, it’s been great. Just playing with new people and seeing new people and just trying to get to know new people out here in the real world and getting ready for college. It’s been a great experience,” Hutchinson said.
Helton, a center for the Lions’ Class AAA state playoff squad, is embracing his last week of putting on the Central uniform heading into Saturday’s kickoff.
“It’s real special getting to play in a game of this magnitude. There’s a lot of good players and there’s going to be some good competition. Hopefully, there’s some college coaches there. We’re just ready to perform well. We’ve had a good week of practice and hopefully it will pay off on Saturday,” Helton said.
Spear, a Carrollton offensive lineman, said what’s made it even more special is being able to go back out on his home field for one last week.
“I really didn’t think I could be out here, but I guess I proved myself wrong and I did make it,” Spear said. “I feel like anybody on our team could have made it out here. But we get to come out here and show another side of us and give ourselves more opportunities for college and whatnot.”
Phillips, too, is soaking up his last chance to work out at Grisham Stadium as a Trojan.
“That’s just incredibly special. It’s fun. That’s how I can sum it up. It’s just a fun time. There’s no stress. You’re not trying to prove nothing. It’s just taking it all in,” Phillips said.
As for the leader of this group, Vohun finds himself back in his comfort zone after being away from the game during the past two years.
“It’s been a lot of fun to get back on the sidelines. Just personally, it’s probably what I’m going to do anyway if I can find somebody to hire me. I don’t know if I can do that or not, but it’s been a lot of fun to get back on the sidelines. Not only with the players, it’s been fun to work with this staff. It’s a great football staff. These guys, when they get on the field and start coaching, they have one speed — and that’s wide open,” Vohun said.
And as Saturday’s kickoff approaches, the players are counting their blessings for one final gridiron go-around at the Dome.
“I’m really excited. I’ve never played at the Dome. I’ve been a few times, but it’ll definitely be different to play. We’re all excited about the opportunity,” Helton said.