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Welcome home, North-South Classic?

Steve Channell made a lot of believers when he turned around the Miamisburg High School football program in just one season.

The Ohio High School Football Coaches Association is counting on him to work that reboot magic again.

Channell, the past president of the statewide OHSFCA, was the vocal force in landing the North-South Classic football games at Welcome Stadium on Saturday. It’s the first time in the 68-year history of the event that it will be played in this part of the state.

“This is our one opportunity to show the rest of the state that Southwest Ohio is a hotbed for high school football,” Channell said. “I put my neck out there to say, hey, give us a chance.”

Channell was the longtime head coach during Edgewood’s run of great teams. After a couple of seasons as a Middletown assistant he landed at Miamisburg last fall. The Vikings, mired in coaching changes and losing seasons, surprised all by going 7-3.

That’s the kind of jump-start he hopes to inject into the country’s longest-running all-star high school football game.

It won’t be easy. The proliferation of these kinds of all-star games — now national and often during New Year’s break – have unintentionally helped undermine in-state games. Also, many top players opt to graduate early and enroll in college in time for spring football.

The North-South game was anchored at Fawcett Stadium in Canton until waning attendance forced its relocation to Crew Stadium in Columbus. The high cost of playing there necessitated another move to nearby Ohio Stadium four years ago.

However, the game never generated a good attendance at OSU. Forced to find yet another site because of Ohio Stadium’s current refurbishment, Channell stepped up with a plea for Welcome Stadium.

No plans will be made for next year’s game until after Saturday.

“Attendance will be the factor on whether the game stays in Southwest Ohio or not,” Channel said. “What we need between the Dayton-Cincinnati area is a great turnout in attendance.”

Besides a new venue, the game already has undergone another major tweak, a split into two games. The Divisions I-III contest will kick off at 4 p.m., followed by the Divisions IV-VI game at 7.

Tickets, $10 at the gate, are good for both games.

At least 22 area players are committed to play. So are four Ohio State recruits.

“If this goes well, we’re going to make every effort to keep this game,” Channell said. “Basically, we’re looking for a home for these games.”

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