Friday night lights shine on All-Stars one last time

Shawnee’s Josh Nelson watches a snap during the uring the Miami Valley Football Coaches Association’s all-star game on Friday night at Centerville Stadium. BRYANT BILLING / CONTRIBUTED
Shawnee’s Josh Nelson watches a snap during the uring the Miami Valley Football Coaches Association’s all-star game on Friday night at Centerville Stadium. BRYANT BILLING / CONTRIBUTED

When he transferred to Shawnee High School for his freshman year, one of the first people Josh Nelson met was Michael Guyer.

The two became fast friends thanks to football. On Friday night, four years after that first meeting, the duo shared the high school field for the final time in the Miami Valley Football Coaches Association’s Pigskin Classic. Nelson and Guyer represented the Braves in the all-star game for just-graduated seniors.

“He was kind of like my first real friend at Shawnee,” said Nelson, who transferred from Madison Plains. “I was going to play football so my very first practice was a two-a-day. I didn’t really know anyone. I’d eat lunch alone in the locker room and didn’t really talk to anyone. He invited me to eat with him and his friends. We became friends through football.”

Nelson and Guyer will continue their friendship and football careers together at Wittenberg University.

But first came Friday night’s Pigskin Classic. Nelson and Guyer were members of the North team that also included Catholic Central’s Cosmas Katanzaro and Thomas Kavanagh, Cedarville’s Sam Allex, Urbana’s Dillon Hasford and Tecumseh’s Isaiah Trimble.

Getting a group of football players from around the Miami Valley to mesh in 10 practices is challenging enough. Getting some of them to do it after being rivals?

“The kids from Central, we played them my freshman year. At first I was like, ‘Ahhh, Central kids,’ ” Guyer said, laughing. “But we’re all on the same team now.”

The same philosophy applied to Tecumseh’s Trimble, but the Braves couldn’t help but get some good-natured ribbing in during the first practices. Shawnee beat rival Tecumseh 35-14 in the final game of the 2016 season.

“At first we messed with him and told him we got the win last year,” Nelson said. “As practice went on we kept it cool.”

The game features players from all seven OHSAA football divisions, giving them a chance to see how they fare against area talent. It’s also a chance to play under the Friday night lights one last time.

“I think it’s awesome. There’s kids from all around and you can tell there’s a lot of athletes,” Guyer said. “The past couple weeks have been hard because it’s a new team, no one knows each other. We’ve put together an offense and we’ve put together a defense and in practices we haven’t been doing too bad.”

“It’s great getting to compare yourself to other talent around southwest Ohio,” Nelson said. “It’s a humbling experience and you get to know how good you are compared to them. It’s a great experience considering we’re going to be with some great players and representing our school.”

Guyer played quarterback last season at Shawnee and completed 54 of 104 passes for 701 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions. He also rushed for 832 yards and seven touchdowns on 152 carries.

Nelson was his favorite target with 18 catches for 204 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 153 yards and scored four touchdowns on 34 carries.

Asked what he’ll miss most about high school football, Guyer said: “Definitely hanging with my friends. I have a lot of junior friends and obviously I won’t be with them next season so that will be hard. … Winning our last game and it was at home. That was a fun experience.”

Added Nelson: “Playing in front of your school and being close with everyone. The student section cheering you on every Friday night with the parents up there. … And beating Tecumseh in our final game. Hopefully we can finish this one off with a win, too.”