JACKSON TWP. When Jackson fell to St. Ignatius in the first round of the OHSAA playoffs last fall, Chase Altier figured his football days had come to an end.
He and his fellow seniors had fulfilled one of their goals by helping get the program back to the postseason for the first time since 2004, a step forward they hope the classes coming up behind them will be able to build on in the seasons ahead. Walking off the field that cold November night, the majority of the seniors on the team believed they had played their final down.
But when the invitations went out for the annual Canton Repository East-West All-Star Game, Altier and two of his teammates, Gary Parsons and Jack Dear, were among those asked to play for the West squad.
“I was hesitant at first because I knew I might not be in football shape,” Altier said. “But my brother played in this game when he was my age, so it’s nice to keep it in the family.”
His brother, Josh, played in the 2002 edition of the game and being able to suit up one last time before starting college at the University of Cincinnati this fall was too good to pass up. Parsons, who has worked for his father’s concrete company in previous summers, has planned to go straight into the workforce, so he and Altier are both taking on last chance to put on the pads and their Jackson helmets in a competitive game.
Although the long-term renovation project at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium means that the game was once again played at an alternative site - Bob Commings Stadium at GlenOak High School - but the chance to compete under the lights on a weekend night is still appealing.
Among the teammates with whom Altier, Parsons and Dear practiced and played with were rivals from Lake and Perry, two schools with whom Jackson has had big, intense Federal League contests over the past few seasons.
“We did have some close games against Lake and Perry, so it’s been interesting to get to know them, the Canton South guys too and some of the Perry guys,” Altier said.
With two-hour practices each day of the week leading up to the game and one practice the previous week, there wasn’t much time to put in any sort of complicated system on either side of the ball, but the experience and joy of playing in the game tend to be more of a focal point for such all-star contests than the final score.
Still, winning the game was a nice benefit for the West, which claimed a 35-33 victory on a field goal by Tuslaw’s John Cybak with 1.1 seconds remaining. It was a fitting capper for a memorable night in which the two teams combined to set game records for most points (68) and total yards (841) in the 28-year history of the contest. Being a defensive player in such a high-scoring game isn’t always fun, but in the end winning left a smile on the faces of West coaches and players.
The East received a record-setting effort from Hoover’s Donny Genetin, who hauled in eight receptions for a record 205 yards, but the West was able to walk away with the win thanks to a last-minute drive led by Central Catholic quarterback Jack Murphy. It was quite a finish for a game that saw both sides filled with players who hadn’t played a competitive contest since November.
As the East-West game wound down and the final seconds ticked off the clock, this time Altier could be sure that his organized football days had reached their end. He walked off the field with Parsons and Dear, three teammates who had been through plenty of struggles and successes together and were each headed off in their own direction, pursuing what’s next for them.
“Playing with Gary Parsons and Jack Dear, they’re guys I’ve grown up playing with and we’ve been able to do a lot of big things together for Jackson football the past couple of years and get to the playoffs last year,” Altier said. “It’s kind of sad and I’m definitely going to miss playing football.”
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