Herbstreit On 2006 Ohio vs. USA Challenge

Yesterday, the 2nd Annual Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge officially kicked off with a golf outing a preview show that included all the teams involved in the event. We caught up with Herbstreit to discuss this tremendous event plus we have detailed information surrounding the participating teams and players. Matt Natali has more.

The 2nd Annual Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge officially kicked off yesterday with the preview party that included a golf outing followed by the live broadcast of the preview show, which aired on ONN. 

Participating in the day's events were representatives from each of the 18 schools involved, including coaches and athletic directors, members of the media and title sponsors. 

In only its second year, the Ohio vs. USA challenge has evolved from a two-game event that included one out-of-state team into a nine-game showcase featuring the top programs in Ohio and the elite high school football programs from across the country. 

In last year's event at Columbus Crew Stadium, Westerville North nipped rival Westerville South 14-10 and then defending Division I state champion defeated Tyler (Texas) Lee 27-12.  

This year, the nine games will be split between Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium and Massillon's Paul Brown Stadium. 

"This is something that we got a little taste of last year," said Herbstreit. "We decided learning from the first year that we wanted to move into venues that we thought were hotbeds for Ohio high school football. Massillon – there is obviously the tradition there with the birth of football – and Cincinnati with all the great programs down in that area. 

"So, the goal is for the entire state to participate as it has morphed into nine games. You're going to find central Ohio in the mix with Hilliard Davidson. Findlay is involved in the event and, obviously, the Northeast teams and down in the Southwest." 

With a who's who of Ohio high school football participating in the Challenge as well as national powers, this is truly a unique and unprecedented event. 

"What's different about this event that might be different from some of the other events you might hear about is it is the national elite – the traditional powers from around the country coming into our backyard," Herbstreit said. "I like to think we are very proud of Ohio high school football and this is going to be a barometer to find out how some of Ohio's best teams stack up against the nation's best teams." 

Programs traveling from across the country to the Buckeye State in September include Texas High (Texarkana), Cardinal O'Hara (Pa.), Byrnes (S.C.), Lakeland (Fl.), Don Bosco Prep (N.J.), De La Salle (Ca.), St. Joseph's Prep (Pa.), Springdale (Ak.) and Hamilton (Az.). 

Of course, with great teams come great players and there are approximately 80 gridders set to participate that have with Division I college interest and offers. 

"We've got players in this event that have committed to Michigan, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Texas, Ohio State – you name it," said Herbstreit. "So, you're talking about some of the elite players in the nation and here is the chance for the Ohio high school football fan to go out and watch them." 

While players and coaches prepare take the field in the Ohio vs. USA Challenge, ‘challenge' takes on a whole new meaning for event organizers.  

"Just putting this press conference on for two days, we had to go through great lengths organizing flights and hotel rooms. Anytime you are bringing people from across the country, everything needs to be first class. Everything has just been flawless so far and hopefully it will continue to go that way," Herbstreit said.  

In addition to the golf outing and preview show on Tuesday, the coaches and athletic directors took the field at Great American Ballpark Monday night with Herbstreit to throw out the first pitch at the Reds-Royals game. 

"Ken Halloy has been behind the scenes helping out; Josh Johnston was a big part of this behind the scenes helping out with the match ups. Chip James, Craig Schmidt – without all them, this event would not be possible," he said. "Between my work with College Game Day and work with ESPN/ABC and locally on the radio with WBNS, I wouldn't have time. This is a full time commitment to pull this off. Luckily we have a good crew doing it." 

Getting back to the basic intent of the Challenge – settling the heated debate about which state has the best high school football – Herbstreit is excited that it will finally be decided on the field.   

"We here in Ohio feel we play the best high school football in the country. Texas feels they play the best high school football. Florida thinks they play the best. California thinks they play the best. Everybody thinks they play the best high school football," he said. "Well, September 15th and 16th, we're going to start finding out who does play the best high school football. So, there are bragging rights on the line. When it is time to go out and play, we're going to find out who plays the best high school football.  

"I am connected always with Centerville but I am proud of the entire sate of Ohio and the teams in the entire state," he added. "And I am really proud and thankful for all the teams around the nation that have agreed to come into our state – into hostile territory – and have accepted to play. Hopefully we can reach out and make them feel welcome and make them feel at home and we can go out and play some football and have some fun."

2006 Ohio vs. USA Challenge Game Schedule

September 15
Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati
5:45 p.m. - Findlay vs. Texas High (Texarkana, Texas)
8:30 p.m. - Colerain vs. Cardinal O'Hara (Philadelphia)
September 16
Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati
11:45 a.m. - Cincinnati Moeller vs. Byrnes (South Carolina)
2:45 p.m. - Cincinnati St. Xavier vs. Lakeland (Florida)
5:45 p.m. - Centerville vs. Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.)
8:45 p.m. - Cincinnati Elder vs. De La Salle (Concord, California)
Paul Brown Stadium, Massillon
11:45 a.m. -Hilliard Davidson vs. St. Joseph's Prep (Philadelphia, Pa.)
2:45 p.m. - Canton McKinley vs. North Canton Hoover
5:45 p.m. - Lakewood St. Edward vs. Springdale (Arkansas)
8:45 p.m. - Massillon vs. Hamilton High (Chandler, Arizona)
*All game times are tentative and subject to change

What You Need to Know About National Teams

* Byrnes (S.C.) has won the last four consecutive South Carolina state championships and has claimed seven overall.

* De La Salle holds the national record with 151 consecutive wins spanning a 12-year period (1992-2003). In 28 seasons under head coach Bob Ladouceur, the Spartans have only lost 19 games.

* Cardinal O'Hara (Pa.) head coach Dan Algeo has compiled a 20-4 record in two seasons at the helm and was named the 2004 Eastern Pennsylvania Coach of the Year.

* Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) has won six New Jersey state championships and has been ranked in the national top 20 each of the last four years. Head coach Greg Toal was named the 2003 National Coach of the Year.

* Hamilton (Az.) first fielded a football program in 1998 and has compiled a remarkable 91-11 record in the time since, including state championships in 2003 and 2004.

* Lakeland (Fl.) is the defending USA Today national champion. The Dreadnaughts currently have a 30-game winning streak and have won two consecutive state championships.

* Springdale (Ak.) is the defending state champion and has won titles in the last five years. The Bulldogs finished 2005 ranked No. 4 in the USA Today national poll.

* St. Joseph's Prep (Pa.) won the prestigious Philadelphia Catholic League championship five times including last year.

* Texas High is 68-17 over the last seven years, including an 11-4 state playoff mark.

Notable Players Participating in the Ohio vs. USA Challenge

Ohio Players

* RB Darius Ashley (5-8, 180, Jr.), Cin. St. Xavier;
* DT Frank Becker (6-3, 275, Sr.), Cin. Moeller; interest from Boston College, Cincinnati, Miami (Oh), Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue.
* S Eugene Clifford (6-2, 190, Sr.), Colerain; interest from Boston College, Cincinnati, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, West Virginia.
* LB Andrew Dailey (6-3, 215, Sr.), Massillon; interest from Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State.
* TE Kevin Deters (6-3, 220, Sr.), Cin. Moeller; interest from Boston College, Cincinnati, Duke, Maryland, Miami (Oh), Northwestern, Ohio.
* RB Frank Edmonds (5-8, 185, Sr.), Lakewood St. Edward; interest from Akron, Duke, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State.
* RB Brian Gamble (6-0, 195, Sr.), Massillon; interest from Illinois, Iowa, Miami (Fl.), Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin.
* TE Kyle Hubbard (6-3, 225, Sr.), Lakewood St. Edward; interest from Florida State, Miami (Fl), Michigan, Ohio State, Texas.
* RB William Johnson (6-2, 210, Sr.), Centerville;
* S Diauntae Morrow (6-0, 185, Sr.), Lakewood St. Edward; interest from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin.
* S Nate Oliver (6-0, 195, Sr.), Lakewood St. Edward; committed to Ohio State.
* QB/RB/DB Gary Pride (5-8, 170, Sr.), Colerain;
* LB Tyler Replogle (6-2, 225, Sr.), Centerville; interest from Indiana, Michigan State, Iowa, West Virginia, Pittsburgh.
* QB Chris Schneider (6-2, 235, Sr.), Findlay;

National Players

* OL Jeff Battipagglia (6-5, 265, Sr.), St. Joseph's Prep; interest from Maryland, Penn State, Rutgers, Syracuse.
* CB Ahmed Black (5-10, 170, Sr.), Lakeland; committed to Florida.
* LB Chad Diel (6-2, 235, Sr.), Byrnes; interest from Clemson, Duke, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest.
* DE Neil Doogan (6-4, 235, Sr.), St. Joseph's Prep; interest from Penn State, Rutgers, Syracuse.
* RB Wayne Drummond (6-0, 200, Sr.), Don Bosco Prep; interest from Boston College, Penn State, Rutgers, Syracuse.
* DT Ryan Haber (6-2, 270, Sr.), St. Joseph's Prep; interest from Penn State, Rutgers, Syracuse.
* TE Jason Hammond (6-4, 225, Sr.), Lakeland; committed to LSU.
* LB Stanley Hunter (6-0, 205, Sr.), Byrnes; committed to Clemson.
* LB Jamie Jones (6-0, 215, Sr.), Springdale; interest from Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas.
* QB Willy Korn (6-2, 200, Sr.), Byrnes; committed to Clemson.
* QB Ryan Mallet (6-6, 210, Sr.), Texas High ; committed to Michigan.
TE Zach Pianalto (6-4, 212, Sr.), Springdale; committed to Texas.
* OL James Pouncey (6-5, 298, Sr.), Lakeland; committed to Florida.
* OL LaShawn Pouncey (6-5, 283, Sr.), Lakeland; committed to Florida.
* WR Chris Rainey (5-9, 156, Sr.), Lakeland; committed to Florida.
* QB Matt Simms (6-2, 200, Sr.), Don Bosco Prep; interest from Boston College, Louisville, Mississippi, Rutgers; son of former NFL quarterback Phil Simms.
* RB Jamar Taylor (5-10, 205, Sr.), Lakeland; committed to Alabama.
* WR Kerry Taylor (6-1, 180, Sr.), Hamilton; interest from Arizona State, California, USC, Arizona, Oregon State, San Diego State, Washington State.
* K Alex Tejada (6-1, 190, Sr.), Springdale; interest from Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi, Nebraska, Vanderbilt.
* DE Justin Trattou (6-4, 250, Sr.), Don Bosco Prep; committed to Notre Dame.
* QB Chris Whitney (6-3, 215, Sr.), St. Joseph's Prep; interest from Iowa, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State, Rutgers, Syracuse, Wisconsin.
* S Steven Wilks (6-2, 195, Sr.), Lakeland; committed to Florida.
* WR Paul Wilson (6-1, 175, Sr.), Lakeland; committed to Florida.

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