The 2012 season was not an especially memorable one for the Lake Blue Streaks.
Their 3-7 finish and 2-5 Federal League record weren't the reminders they wanted to leave veteran head coach Jeff Durbin with as he retired this spring after 23 years leading the program. Five of the players who were part of the last senior class to play under Durbin's leadership have a chance to register a more positive memory with their former coach as he eases into retirement.
Matt Campbell, Kyle Crites, Zach Gazdacko, Nick MacBride and Andrew Onablyi will compete for the West team in the 2013 CSE Federal Credit Union Repository-Pro Football Hall of Fame East-West All-Star Game, set for July 13.
Players from 10 different high school teams will comprise the West roster, with Jackson head coach Beau Balderson leading the squad. Durbin's son Luke, an assistant at Massillon, will also serve as one of the coaches for the West team.
For new Lake coach Dan DeGeorge, the quintet of players representing his program are representative of what Durbin built at Lake and what he hopes to continue doing as he takes over for one of the most-successful head coaches in Stark County's recent football history.
"These five players are great representatives of our program," DeGeorge said. "We have always tried to tie toughness into every part of our program and they did that. They gave us all they had."
Three of the five Lake players competing in the game will continue their careers at the collegiate level this fall. Crites, a leader on defense and a three-year starter in the secondary for the Blue Streaks, is headed for John Carroll this fall and DeGeorge believes the pairing will work well for both player and program.
"Kyle was a leader on the defensive side for us. He is an incredibly hard worker and a great player and I'm confident that John Carroll is getting a really good defensive back. It is a really good fit," DeGeorge said.
Gazdacko was a two-way player for each of the past two seasons and was also a starter for the 2010 team that reached the state semifinals. He is relishing the opportunity to play with his high school teammates one final time.
"It's awesome that I'll be playing with those four guys because I know I'll never have the chance to play with them again," Gazdacko said.
He will suit up for Grove City (Pa.) next season and DeGeorge cited his contributions on both sides of the ball over the past three years as an important part of the success the Blue Streaks were able to attain.
"Zach played a lot of running back for us and he was also a big part of what we did on the defensive side of the ball," DeGeorge added. "He always came to work every single day, on the field and in the weight room."
Page 2 of 2 - The other three Lake players putting on their familiar red, white and blue helmet for one final game were all members of the offensive and defensive lines. Campbell was a two-year starter on the offensive line and player mostly as an offensive tackle for the Blue Streaks. DeGeorge praised his weight room work and pointed out that even though Campbell won't by playing college football, he has the ability to compete at the next level.
Onablyi, like Campbell, was a two-way starter up front. With what his coach calls "a lot of natural athletic ability," Onablyi was a part of the tough, physical approach Durbin and his staff tried to establish against Federal League rivals with an edge in depth and athleticism.
MacBride is the lone member of the trio of linemen committed to play in college. He will play for Thiel College, a Division III school located in Greenville, Pa. He developed a reputation as a run-stuffing interior lineman for Lake and started for his final two seasons.
DeGeorge looks at the Lake contingent for the East-West game and sees the imprint Durbin made on not only their lives, but on the lives of hundreds of players over the past 23 years.
"Any guys lucky enough to play for coach Durbin were very fortunate," DeGeorge concluded. "He is a great coach, a great man and he is all about working hard when no one's watching and doing the right thing not only on the field, but in life as well."
"It's kind of weird that we're his last class, but Kyle and I have been talking about how crazy it is and we definitely want to go out there and show what he taught us," Gazdacko added.
Reach Andy at 330-899-2872 or andy.harris@TheSuburbanite.com.
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB