There are few bigger thrills in prep sports than to be chosen to participate in the annual Arizona Coaches Association All-Star games. Coaches and athletes look forward to school year ending competition as a reward for a regular season job well done.
For the athletes, who must be graduated seniors, the games represent the opportunity to play alongside many of the players he or she has played against for four years.
During all-star week, it's not unusual to see athletes who have been longtime rivals form friendships that last a lifetime.
For all-stars who are not going to continue their careers on the college level, the games also provide one final opportunity to play their chosen sport at the highest level.
For coaches, the all-star games are an opportunity to work with the finest athletes from around the state. Because the games are held in conjunction with the Arizona Coaches Association convention, they also provide the camaraderie that is so important to the profession.
The coaches and athletes selected to participate in the games are chosen in a voting of the members of the ACA.
The 2003 edition of the all-star games wrapped up Saturday evening in Casa Grande with the football competition.
Several years ago, Casa Grande graciously offered to host the all-star games that had been held for many years at Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher.
After one of the corporate sponsors withdrew some of its support, the ACA games had to look for a new home and found it in Casa Grande.
For three decades, the ACA games flourished on the campus of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Held each year in August, coaches and athletes eagerly anticipated the week-long competition and convention in the cool, pine-covered mountain retreat.
Among the longtime ACA members, there are those who continue to believe that NAU is the ideal location for the all-star games.
But without support from NAU, the Arizona Cardinals will be the only visiting football team on the campus in August.
In 1987, Payson football all-stars Matt Rambo, Mark Velasco, Ty Goodman and Ty Chilson were a part of the South team that practiced for a week on the NAU campus but had to travel to Prescott High School for the game. For unknown reasons, the game could not be played in Walkup Skydome where it had been held for years.
When the coaches association grudgingly departed NAU in 1988, Payson was mentioned as a possible site for the North vs. South all-star football game.
That idea was nixed because Payson didn't have dormitories to house the players during the week leading up to the all-star game.
Payson stadium was properly deemed inadequate for a crowd the size the all-star games attract.