ANDERSON — For some, it will be their last chance at playing competitive football for the rest of their lives. For others, it will be just one last step before taking their games to the college level.
But for all the graduating senior high school football players from 49 east-central high schools, Friday’s annual Indiana Football Hall of Fame East-West Football Classic will give each of them an opportunity to shine once more at the local level.
The teams combine for 12 players from high schools in the local area, including Shenandoah and Pendleton Heights on the East team and Madison-Grant and Anderson on the West team.
Pendleton Heights head coach John Broughton has clinched two sectional titles and a total of 28 wins during the past three seasons with his graduating class, including running back and kicker Jon Furrow, linebacker Peyton McCardwell and wide receiver Austin Coffel.
Furrow is the only player from Broughton’s squad playing college football, going on to the Wheaton College Thunder next season, but the coach said it’s great that his players who worked so hard during high school get one last chance under the lights to play, especially so close to home.
“There’s a lot of Pendleton Heights pride, and it’s kinda a reward for their work,” Broughton said. “Most importantly, they’re good people. They’re good citizens. They’re good students. They’re just good to be around.
“I’m most proud of the young men they’ve become, and I know they’re going to be successful in whatever road they take.”
For Anderson Indians fans, players and administrators, though, the game takes on an even bigger meaning.
With the arrival of this year’s game, the third-straight IFHOF East-West Football Classic that Anderson High School has hosted, AHS athletic director Steve Schindler will be awarded an IFHOF Founders Award for Anderson Schools. Schindler will also sever as the game’s honorary captain for the coin toss.
Schindler said he hadn’t been told much about the award, but that it was more than just his hard work that brought its culmination.
“I think it’s really a combination of everybody, and I’m just the lucky one who gets to receive the award,” Schindler said.
And with the honor that Schindler will receive, along with hosting the event now for three years running, he and Anderson head coach Randy Albano said the game has done more for the community than bring in awards and recognition.
“You get the impression that Anderson is all basketball when you come to our stadium,” Albano said. “I think football has really picked up in Anderson in the last 15 years. I think it’s a very positive thing for the sport of football in Anderson.
“We’ve had always at least two to four kids that have been on the team. It’s been good. I think the kids like it, and it’s a fun game, and it’s good for the Hall of Fame.”
Albano saw three players from his graduating class were invited for this year’s Football Classic, including running back Tim Boyd, offensive lineman Coby Dugger and linebacker Vinny Avalos. The head coach said he expected great things from them during Friday night’s game after seeing the players they became while playing for the Indians.
But whether Friday’s game will be the last for any of the 84 players playing at Collier Field at 7 p.m., Broughton said it’s only important that the graduating seniors live in the moment.
“I just know that they’ll cherish this moment,” Broughton said. “They’ll appreciate it now, but they’re going to cherish this down the road when they understand the implications of what this all means in the long run.”