Jacob France couldn’t concentrate.
The Central senior was sitting in class late in the high school football season when he found out that he had been selected to play in the first-ever Valley Football of Christian Athletes All-Star game.
“When I found out, I was super excited,” France said. “I got a text in class and I just couldn’t focus the rest of class. Doing something like this is really cool.”
The all-star game takes place Sunday at James Madison University at 2 p.m. It features two teams made up of players throughout the Shenandoah Valley.
The Shenandoah team consists of senior players from the Shenandoah District, while the Valley team is made up of senior players from the Bull Run and Valley Districts. Only athletes from the counties of Shenandoah, Rockingham, Page, Augusta, and Rockbridge are eligible for the game. The players were nominated for the game by coaches throughout the area.
Strasburg senior Stephen Kloosterman said he had not heard anything about the event until he was interrupted while sitting in class one day.
“I was sitting in school one day and I just kept getting these texts like ‘congratlations,’ Kloosterman said. “And I was like ‘what is everybody talking about?’ And then somebody sent me a link and I was like ‘oh, that’s crazy.’ Then I was excited. I can’t wait for it.”
The game features nine local players and two coaches. Central will be represented by France, Zeb Dyer, Shane Watson, Kyle Clanton, Zach Abrams and Declan Franklin. They will be joined on the Valley team by Kloosterman and his Strasburg teammate Hunter Miller. Stonewall Jackson will be represented on the Shenandoah team by Logan Ritchie.
Central coach Mike Yew will be an assistant coach for the Valley team, while Stonewall Jackson coach Pete Lampman will be an assistant coach for the Shenandoah team. East Rockingham High School coach Donnie Coleman is the head coach for the Shenandoah, while Spotswood High School coach Dale Shifflett is the head coach of the Valley team.
There will also be cheerleaders representing the different schools for each team.
A number of college coaches are expected to be on hand to watch the game and get a good look at many of the players in the Valley.
Lampman said it should be a good opportunity for local players to play in front of college coaches.
“It’s a great little showcase for the kids, to let them play ball and let coaches see them, especially for some of the smaller schools,” Lampman said. “They don’t always get around to a place like ours, where we’ve been kind of down. So maybe players don’t get the recognition that some of them deserve.”
Lampman said he’s looking forward to coaching different players and working with new coaches.
France said he’s known about the game since midway through the regular season and it was a goal for him to play in the game.
“It’s something that I had in the back of my head throughout the season,” France said. “Obviously, (try to win a) state title was first and then try to see if I could make that all-star game. So that was something that I was thinking about while playing and practicing to work towards.”
Both teams began practicing at Bridgewater College on Tuesday to prepare for the game.
France said that he’s excited to play in a big stadium like JMU.
“(In the playoffs) We played Luray at Shenandoah (University) and that was a super cool feeling,” France said. “But honestly I think the turnout for this game will be just a little bit bigger just because of everybody’s families and people coming from the school. So I think the atmosphere is going to be absolutely amazing to play in front of. And it will be a fun game.”
Kloosterman said it’s always been a dream of his to play in a big stadium like JMU’s, which seats 24,877.
“That’s exciting getting to play on a big stadium,” Kloosterman said. “That’s something that I’ve always hoped of being able to play on at least once. And I’m excited to get to play there.”
Tickets for the game are $10 per person and can be purchased at www.valleyfca.org/football or at the gate on Sunday. Gates open at 1 p.m. A portion of the proceeds will go to each school’s athletic program.
Kloosterman said that he’s heard a lot of people say they were coming to the game, and he thinks it’s a great event for the entire community.
“I think it kind of gets our athletes out there and kind of helps promote them in the community,” Kloosterman said. “It brings the Shenandoah Valley community together as a whole.”