As a conglomeration of people began to fill the stadium, the cheers got louder, and the anxiety grew stronger. This is football. And, this is the 51st Annual Lions’ Club International All-Star Football Game. This is not just a high school football game; it is a bit more complex than that. This is a game that only seniors can play in. The best football players from all over the South Bay are invited to have their last high school triumph at this special game.
For those of you that do not live in the South Bay, just understand that football is no joke. As we see it, football is the most important sport, and the most competitive sport. This is why this game is so mind-blowing. It is the last time we get to watch our known and loved seniors participate in a football game together. Sure, they might go on to play in college, or possibly further than that, but this is the last time they will all play together, and this time in unison with what otherwise was for four years, their competition. Blue versus White, playing together, in sync with each other’s minds, nothing can stop them from winning.
The All-Star Game is put on by the West Torrance Lions Club, and they surely do an amazing job. Over the last 50 years, this game has raised over $1 million for various South Bay charities. However, dozens of individual organizations and local businesses contribute to this game’s success as well. But, clearly much of the event is thanks to the coaches and players. For the Blue Team, the head coach was Kevin McCall from Carson High. For the White Team (my bias favorite with the boys from El Segundo on it) the head coach was Rock Hollis from Torrance High. The Blue Team included the players from Narbonne, Banning, Hawthorne, Lawndale, St. Anthony, Carson, Leuzinger, and Morningside. The White Team had players from Redondo, San Pedro, Torrance, Peninsula, Inglewood, West Torrance, North Torrance, Mira Costa, and my town, El Segundo. Shout out to the El Segundo players which included: Elijah “Midge” Hale (DB), Nick Karsseboom (WR), Jackson Walz (LB), Dwayne Polk (DL), Miguel Wagner (RB/DB), Ryan Kelly (RB/LB), and Michael Rincon (OL). This is the core group of senior boys, along with quarterback Lars Nootbaar, that took El Segundo to a 10-0 pre-CIF season.
In March of 1965, when the West Torrance Lions Club was just about a year old, the idea of the All Star Football Game occurred. The club was searching for fundraising projects to advance their service in the South Bay. Lion George F. Swade, who at the time was the head coach at Bishop Montgomery, initially thought of the idea. So, at the first All-Star Football Game, seniors from the 24 South Bay high schools would compete, with the dividing line being Hawthorne Blvd.
Clearly, many things have changed since this first game. For one, the venue has moved from El Camino, to Harbor College, to Redondo High, and finally to Mira Costa High in Manhattan Beach. The teams are now divided by East and West, and now called Blue and White. The game has been held during the summer, the winter, during the day, and during the night. But, the most important things have not changed. As the West Torrance Lions Club says, “We honor outstanding high school seniors and coaches with an All-Star game, and provide the sports fans of the South Bay Area with a major event.”
Fans from all over the South Bay showed up to support their friends and family in this event. Parents of seniors cried their eyes out knowing this was their children’s last high school game ever. Alumni from the competing schools came as well. Cheers were loud as could be. By halftime, the White Team was in the lead, 20-8. Wherever you looked, you could see anguish on people’s faces as they anxiously awaited the outcome. The third and fourth quarters consisted of fans screaming for their teams to win, and players praying they do their best with their very last high school moments. By the end of the game, the White Team won, 44-8! Fans ran to the field to hug their sweaty players. And let me tell you, the field was noisome as could be.
Overall, it was a wonderful night, and sadly the last one where we watch the seniors of our wonderful South Bay schools. I wish them all luck in their futures, and hope to see them on the field again. Though the Saturday night lights might fade, the memories of the night never will.
— Cece Jane