Nation’s top high school football event back for a third year


Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge

What many consider to be the top high school sporting event in the country, the Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge was in jeopardy of returning this year just a few short months ago. But the Challenge is back on track and the nation's top high school football event is set to kick off this weekend. Matt Natali caught up with Herbstreit for more on the event plus he takes a look at the game match ups and top players participating.

What many consider to be the top high school sporting event in the country, the Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge was in jeopardy or returning this year just a few short months ago.

After two successful years of putting on the Ohio vs. USA Challenge, which showcases the top high school football programs in Ohio pitted against the top programs in the country, the event ran into some behind-the-scenes issues, mainly financial, that nearly signaled its end.

“The thing that we were the most proud of is the high school players, coaches and fans walked away with a great experience,” said Herbstreit. “But behind the scenes there was just turmoil. It was a group – I think when we put it together – it was a group that probably thought like any other company thinks that it was going to make things for the better. But as it turned out, there were a lot of shenanigans and problems made it clear that it was not going to work out.

“What you learn from it is to be careful who you go into business with. I think I made a mistake in trusting some people and learned from that. Now I am in a position where I have a company and a group of people that I have a lot of faith in and trust in and there is a lot more harmony behind the scenes. Last year, I think it was more fragmented. I don’t mean to pound the old regime, I would just simply rather look at the positive direction the event is going in now.”

For a period of time in the spring Herbstreit entertained the thought of taking his name off the event and let it proceed without him.

Enter Intersport – a Chicago-based sports marketing firm that specializes in event marketing and promotion.

“I decided that if I was going to keep my name on the event and stay involved there needed to be a change,” Herbstreit said. “That is why Intersport, who I was familiar with in working under the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award for college football, I was impressed with them and the way they work that event. I thought it would be great if they got involved at the high school level and they also agreed. We ended up starting the talks and it just became a reality.

“Once they came on, they took care of a lot of the debt and concerns from the (2006) event. And I think this year with everything underneath one umbrella and with Intersport working as a professional company – its just first class – everything they do.

“So, there has been a lot going on but at the end of the day the thing I am most appreciative of is Intersport’s involvement for saving the event. Also, (I am appreciative of) the high school administrators understanding the position we were in this transition year and being willing to work with us to get the schedule set in stone and move forward.”

With Intersport’s involvement, the title sponsor of the Ohio vs. USA Challenge has shifted from McDonald’s to Burger King, which has agreed to sponsor the event for the next three years.

Herbstreit, who was an All-American quarterback at Centerville High School, captain of the 1992 Ohio State team and has been an ESPN college football analyst since 1995, had the original intention of putting on just a handful of games with the top programs in the country battling the top Ohio schools. This year, there are 11 games on the schedule split between two locations (Canton Fawcett Stadium and Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium). In the future, he would like to scale back the number of games played.

“I think that is the goal down the road. Ideally, we’ll have anywhere from four or five games,” he said. “We’re also going to try to figure out what makes the most sense as far as location. From this point on, I think you’ll see that the event will be a little smoother run and hopefully down the road we’ll be in one facility as opposed to two facilities throughout the state.”

Regardless of the disorder behind-the-scenes since last year’s event, what the Ohio vs. USA Challenge’s main objective and focus is the best high school football in the country and last year’s games did not disappoint.

“My thought all along was a weekend of high school football and having a chance to bring in the best high school players and teams from around the nation into our state every year to compete against the best individual players and teams in (Ohio) – that is the goal of the event. That is what we’ll continue to strive for,” Herbstreit said.

“I know just from talking to the players and to the coaches that we’ve been successful these past few years getting the feedback we have gotten. It is amazing what this atmosphere and this event did for the rest of their seasons and how it prepped them for league play or the playoffs. A lot of them pointed to that weekend as a point for them to really learn a lot about themselves. To me, that is really exciting to think that we are putting on that kind of event that is creating that kind of buzz for them.”

If last year’s match-ups are any indication, this year’s games won’t fail to impress either.

Perhaps the marquee game of this year’s event – Cincinnati St. Xavier vs. Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic – will air on ESPN live Sunday, Sept. 2 at noon. Both schools are ranked in the top five in the country in several national polls with St. Xavier holding down the top spot in the poll.

The Clayton Northmont vs. Pittsburgh Central Catholic (Pa.) will follow at 3:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

Streaming video internet broadcasts will be available at for the four Sat., Sept. 1 games at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium. Those games include Cincinnati LaSalle vs. Indianapolis Cathedral (Ind.) at 11: 30 a.m., Cincinnati Colerain vs. Hoover (Ala.) at 2:15 p.m., Cincinnati Moeller vs. Mission Viejo (Calif.) at 5 p.m. and Cincinnati Elder vs. Charlotte (N.C.) Independence at 8:15 p.m.. The details for the internet broadcasts are still being finalized and may include a small fee for viewing.

Games set for the Canton Fawcett Stadium location on Sat., Sept. 1, including Grove City vs. Buford (Ga.) at 11:30 a.m., Cleveland Glenville vs. Long Beach (Calif.) Poly at 2:15 p.m., Youngstown Cardinal Mooney vs. Gateway (Pa.) at 5 p.m., and Canton McKinley vs. Tulsa (Ok.) Union at 8:15 p.m., will air on tape delay on the NFL Network.

“We’re thrilled to offer fans around the country a chance to watch these great games on TV and on the Internet, not to mention help increase the visibility of high school football,” said Intersport VP Dan Jones. “Intersport was founded as a television production company, and securing NFL Network and ESPN as partners is an extension of the strong relationships we have with those networks.”

The only game of this year’s Challenge that is not scheduled to be broadcasted via TV or internet is the Highlands (Ky.) vs. Trotwood-Madison game on Sept. 2 at the Nippert at 6 p.m.

Jones added, “Locking up national TV distribution deals and an Internet partner is more evidence that the Burger King Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge is without question the premier high school football event in the country.”

With the train back on the tracks from an organizational standpoint, high school football fans can look forward to some of the top high school football match ups for years to come in the Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge.

“I think anytime you start something of this magnitude you always feel you have the right concept and the right idea of how to go about it,” Herbstreit said. “But it really is unchartered waters and there is a bit of trial and error.

“But rest assured, we will have an event not only in 2008 but beyond,” said Herbstreit.

2007 Ohio vs. USA Challenge Game Schedule

Fawcett Stadium – Pro Football Hall of Fame – Canton, Ohio

September 1, 2007 *
*All games set to air on tape delay on the NFL Network

Grove City, Ohio vs. Buford (Ga.) 11:30 a.m.

Cleveland Glenville vs. Long Beach (Calif.) Poly 2:15 p.m.

Youngstown Cardinal Mooney vs. Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway 5:00 p.m.

Canton McKinley vs. Tulsa (Okla.) Union 7:45 p.m.

Nippert Stadium – University of Cincinnati – Cincinnati, Ohio

September 1, 2007 *
*All games set to air live on ESPN 360

Cincinnati LaSalle vs. Indianapolis Cathedral 11:30 a.m.

Colerain vs. Hoover (Ala.) 2:15 p.m.

Cincinnati Moeller vs. Mission Viejo (Calif.) 5:00 p.m.

Cincinnati Elder vs. Charlotte (N.C.) Independence 7:45 p.m.

September 2, 2007

Cincinnati St. Xavier vs. Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic Noon*
* Will air live on ESPN

Clayton Northmont vs. Pittsburgh Central Catholic 3:00 p.m.*
*Will air live on ESPNU

Trotwood-Madison vs. Fort Thomas (Ky.) Highlands 6:00 p.m.

National Teams – What You Need To Know

  • Buford (Ga.) finished last season 12-1 and Region 6-AA Champions. It was the sixth consecutive Region Championship for the Wolves. Head coach Jess Simpson is in his first year at the helm after 10 years as an assistant.
  • Long Beach (Calif.) Poly has produced more NFL players than any other high school in the country. Long Beach Poly is currently ranked No. 11 in the country by USA Today.
  • Gateway (Pa.) has won two PIAA state titles in school history and five district championships. The Gators have won 23 Big East Conference championships and in five years under current head coach Terry Smith they have won three. Gateway claimed the conference title in Smith’s inaugurual season for the first time since 1987. The Gators are currently ranked No. 10 in the country by USA Today.
  • Tulsa (Okla.) Union won 2004 and 2005 state titles in Oklahoma’s big school division (6A).
  • Indianapolis Cathedral defeated Concord 38-14 to capture the IHSAA 4A State Football Championship last season. The title is the sixth IHSAA Football Championship in the school's history (1986, 1992, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2006).
  • Hoover (Ala.) has been nationally ranked by USA Today and has won five of the last seven state championship, including four straight (2002-2005). Hoover was featured on the MTV program Two-A-Days chronicling the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
  • Mission Viejo (Calif.) has won three California Interscholastic Federation state championships. In 2004 the Diablos finished No. 2 in the country according to USA Today and have finished in the top five amongst the nation’s best teams from 2001-2005. Mission Viejo is 85-8 in the last seven seasons under head coach Bob Johnson, who has a 226-81 career record.
  • Charlotte (N.C.) Independence ended last season with its 108th consecutive win, the longest current winning streak in the country. The record for most consecutive wins is held by 2006 Ohio vs. USA Challenge participant Concord De La Salle (Ca.). Independence has won six straight NCHSAA state championships at the 4-AA level and is currently ranked No. 3 in the country by USA Today.
  • Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic is one of the premier high school football programs on the east coast. The Stags have won four straight Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championships and six of the last seven. DeMatha finished 11-0 last season ranked No. 1 in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The Stags are currently ranked No. 5 in the country by USA Today.
  • Pittsburgh Central Catholic was the WPIAL Quad A Champion and the PIAA Quad A State Champion in 2004. Notable alumni include Pro Football Hall of Fame QB Dan Marino and St. Louis Rams QB Marc Bulger. The Gators are currently ranked No. 10 in the country by USA Today.
  • Fort Thomas (Ky.) Highlands has claimed 16 state championships in school history including five Class AAA state titles under current head coach Dale Mueller. Under Mueller’s direction, the Bluebirds are 5-2 in state championship games and won three straight from 1998-2000.

Notable players participating


RB Darius Ashley (5-9,185, Sr.), Cin. St. Xavier; Boston College, Illinois, Louisville, Northwestern, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin offers;

WR Stephon Ball (6-5, 210, Sr.), Cin. St. Xavier; Cincinnati, Miami (Oh.), W. Michigan offers;

RB/LB Brandon Beachum (6-0, 200, Sr.), Youngs. Mooney; committed to Penn State;

QB Domonick Britt (6-5, 195, Sr.), Trotwood-Madison; committed to Cincinnati;

OL Chandler Burden (6-5, 290, Sr.), Cin. LaSalle;

DB Stephon Burnam (6-0, 175, Sr.), Cin. Elder;

OL Andrew Carpenter (6-2, 274, Sr.), Cin. St. Xavier;

LB Fred Craig (6-2, 205, Sr.), Cin. St. Xavier; committed to Stanford;

WR Patrick Curtain (6-2, 190, Sr.), Cin. Moeller;

OL Evan Davis (6-4, 250, Sr.), Colerain; committed to Cincinnati;

OL Jarod Emerson (6-6, 260, Sr.), Youngs. Mooney;

CB Donnie Fletcher (5-11, 170, Sr.), Clev. Glenville; Bowling Green offer;

OL Thomas Good (6-2, 300, Sr.), Colerain;

RB Nicholas Gramke (5-11, 185, Jr.), Cin. Elder;

TE Matt Green (6-3, 207, Sr.), Cin. LaSalle;

QB Johnny Groene (6-0, 170, Sr.), Cin. Elder;

DE Brett Hambrick (6-2, 225, Sr.), Cin. Elder;

DB Jake Held (6-1, 180, Sr.), Cin. Moeller;

OL/LB Steve Hengehold (6-2, 225, Sr.), Cin. Elder;

LB/DE Taylor Hill (6-2, 205, Sr.), Youngs. Mooney; committed to Oklahoma;

QB John Hurley (6-3, 200, Sr.), Cin. St. Xavier;

LB Zach Imhoff (6-3, 225, Sr.), Colerain;

QB Brendan Jones (6-4, 196, Sr.), Cin. LaSalle;

WR Josh Jones (6-3, 200, Jr.), Cin. Elder;

OL Kevin Kapellas (6-4, 275, Sr.), Cin. Moeller;

DL Alex Kummer (6-4, 207, Sr.), Cin. LaSalle;

DE Joe Langen (6-3, 245, Sr.), Cin. Elder;

DL Jacob Lerman (6-3, 210, Sr.), Cin. Moeller;

QB/S Danny McCarthy (6-2, 190, Sr.), Youngs. Mooney; committed to Notre Dame;

TE/WR Brandon Moore (6-6, 245, Sr.), Trotwood-Madison; committed to Michigan;

K Danny Milligan (5-9, 160, Sr.), Cin. St. Xavier;

WR Nick Olthaus (6-1, 185, Sr.), Cin. Elder;

QB Ross Oltorik (6-1, 210, Sr.), Cin. Moeller;

LB Ricky Otis (6-2, 205, Sr.), Cin. Elder;

WR/DB DeVier Posey (6-3, 190, Sr.), Cin. LaSalle; committed to Ohio State;

LB Jonathan Powell (6-1, 210, Sr.), Cin. Moeller;

DB Gerry Reilly (6-2, 185, Sr.), Cin. St. Xavier;

DL Joe Richter (6-2, 245, Sr.), Cin. St. Xavier;

LB Doug Rippy (6-2, 217, Sr.), Trotwood-Madison; committed to Nebraska;

QB Doug Reynolds (6-2, 185, Sr.), Colerain;

LB/RB Luca Romeo (5-10, 134, Sr.), Cin. St. Xavier;

WR Roy Roundtree (6-2, 190, Sr.), Trotwood-Madison; committed to Purdue;

DL Shawntel Rowell (6-2, 330, Sr.), Clev. Glenville; Illinois offer;

TE Kyle Rudolph (6-7, 235, Sr.), Cin. Elder; committed to Notre Dame;

CB Ravelle Sadler (5-11, 175, Sr.), Colerain; Central Michigan offer;

OL Zebrie Sanders (6-6, 273, Sr.), Clayton Northmont; Florida, Georgia, Clemson, Michigan, UCLA offers;

LB J.K. Schaffer (6-2, 207, Sr.), Cin. LaSalle; committed to Cincinnati;

WR John Scheidler (6-2, 182, Sr.); Cin. St. Xavier;

LB Nick Schneider (6-3, 216, Sr.), Cin. St. Xavier;

WR/LB Cordale Scott (6-3, 200, Sr.), Clev. Glenville; Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin offers;

DE Greg Scruggs (6-4, 225, Sr.), Cin. St. Xavier;

RB Michael Shaw (6-0, 190, Sr.), Trotwood-Madison; committed to Penn State;

RB Dominique Sherrer (5-10, 195, Sr.), Colerain; committed to E. Michigan;

DL Johnny Simon (6-3, 250, Jr.), Youngs. Mooney; Ohio State offer;

WR Ben Smith (6-1, 185, Sr.), Cin. Moeller;

RB Quentin Smith (6-3, 196, Sr.), Colerain;

DE Jay Volker (6-2, 235, Sr.), Cin. Elder;

DL Dawawn Whitner (6-2, 260, Sr.), Clev. Glenville; Illinois, Louisville, Michigan State, West Virginia offers;

OL Fitz Williams (6-5, 280, Sr.), Cin. Moeller;

LB Jamiihr Williams (5-11, 188, Sr.), Trotwood-Madison; Cincinnati, Buffalo, E. Michigan, Marshal, Miami (Oh.) offers;

LB Michael Zordich (6-2, 210, Sr.), Youngs. Mooney; committed to Penn State;


LB Garrett Armstrong (6-1, 225, Sr.), Hoover (Ala.);

OL Jeff Baca (6-4, 270, Sr.), Mission Viejo (Calif.); committed to UCLA;

WR Ken Barfield (6-0, 190, Sr.), Hoover (Ala.);

LB Dorian Bell (6-1, 205, Jr.), Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway;

DT Steve Bing (6-0, 265, Sr.), Long Beach (Calif.) Poly;

QB Allan Bridgford (6-4, 190, Jr.), Mission Viejo (Calif.);

WR Corey Brown (6-1, 180, Jr.); Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway;

RB Tayler Caldwell (5-11, 200, Jr.), Charlotte (N.C.) Independence;

TE Mario Carter (6-4, 218, Sr.), Charlotte (N.C.) Independence; committed to North Carolina State;

DT Jurrell Casey (6-2, 282, Sr.), Long Beach (Calif.) Poly; USC, Mississippi, Oregon, Arizona, Nebraska offers;

LB Alex Castellanos (6-1, 215, Sr.), Mission Viejo (Calif.);

RB Rod Chisholm (5-8, 182, Sr.), Charlotte (N.C.) Independence;

S Chase Daniel (6-3, 185, Sr.), Hoover (Ala.);

RB Jonathan Graham (6-0, 160, Sr.), Hoover (Ala.);

S Leon Green (5-10, 175, Sr.), Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway;

DT Jordan Gross (6-3, 310, Sr.), Long Beach (Calif.) Poly;

DE Shane Hale (6-4, 232, Sr.), Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway; Ohio State, Michigan, Virginia, West Virginia, LSU, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh offers;

WR Cortez Hill (5-10, 170, Sr.), Hoover (Ala.);

S Devonte Holloman (6-2, 200, Jr.), Charlotte (N.C.) Independence; Clemson, Georgia, Marshall, NC State, Virginia offers;

DT Omar Hunter (6-2, 300, Sr.), Buford (Ga.); committed to Notre Dame;

CB Jeffery Johnson (5-8, 150, Sr., Long Beach (Calif.) Poly;

OT Eric Jones (6-6, 270, Sr.), Hoover (Ala.); Jacksonville State, Louisiana Tech, Tulane offers;

OT Matt Jones (6-3, 310, Sr.), Hoover (Ala.);

DL Bill Kemp (6-2, 310, Sr.), Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway;

K Ryan Lichtenstein (5-10, 155, Jr.), Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway;

WR Marcus Linson (6-0, 160, Sr.), Hoover (Ala.);

RB Eric Livsey (6-0, 200, sr.), Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway; Temple offer;

DE Robert Maci (6-4, 225, Sr.), Indianapolis Cathedral; committed to Purdue;

S Alex Mascarenas (6-0, 170, Jr.), Mission Viejo, (Ca.);

WR Rodney McLeod (5-10, 180, Sr.), Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha; committed to Virginia;

RB Demetrius Murray (5-11, 205, Sr.), Buford (Ga.); C. Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, S. Florida, Wake Forest offers;

WR Kevin Norell (5-10, 183, Sr.), Long Beach (Calif.) Poly;

DE Jarvis Pierce (6-3, 221, Sr.), Charlotte (N.C.) Independence;

WR Paul Pierce (5-10, 180, Sr.), Hoover (Ala.);

LB T.J. Pridemore (6-2, 235, Sr.), Buford (Ga.); Duke, S. Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia offers;

S Jon Pryor (5-9, 165, Sr.), Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway; E. Michigan, Temple offers;

CB Makiri Pugh (6-0, 175, Sr.), Charlotte (N.C.) Independence; committed to Georgia;

QB Tyler Ray (6-1, 180, Sr.), Hoover (Ala.);

WR Warren Reuland (6-5, 205, Sr.), Mission Viejo (Calif.); committed to Stanford;

OL Ed Revers (6-4, 252, Sr.), Pittsburgh Central Catholic;

LB Romeo Robinson (5-8, 190, Sr.), Long Beach (Calif.) Poly;

OL Colin Rodkey (6-4, 265, Jr.), Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway;

QB Brandon Rogers 6-2, 210, Sr.), Tulsa (Okla.) Union; E. Michigan offer;

RB Cameron Sadler (5-8, 170, Sr.), Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway; Michigan, Syracuse, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State offers;

RB Andre Shields (5-10, 175, Sr.), Hoover (Ala.);

DE B.J. Stevens (6-2, 235, Jr.), Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway;

QB Tino Sunseri (6-0, 180, Sr.), Pittsburgh Central Catholic; committed to Louisville;

Other Week 2 Key Games
By Steve Helwagen

In other games, on Thursday, Lakewood St. Edward travels to Euclid for a 7 p.m. game on the Fox Sports Net Ohio northeast Ohio package.

In a Division II state championship game rematch, Pickerington Central will host defending state champion Piqua Friday. Piqua won the state title game over Central 26-7 last December. This game will be shown via tape delay by ONN at 9:30 p.m. Friday.

Also on Friday, Massillon Washington (Division I, No. 3 in Power Poll) hosts Solon, Cleveland Benedictine hosts Mentor Lake Catholic, Pickerington North hosts Columbus Watterson, Akron Buchtel travels to Steubenville (Division IV, No. 3 in Power Poll), Coldwater hosts Maria Stein Marion Local (Division V, No. 2 in Power Poll), Lima Senior hosts Dublin Coffman (Division I, No. 2 in Power Poll), Hilliard Davidson travels to Columbus Brookhaven and Newark Licking Valley visits North Canton Hoover. There is a doubleheader at Columbus Crew Stadium at 6 p.m. when New Albany meets Westerville North. At 9 p.m., Westerville South meets Westerville Central.

Also Friday, Trotwood-Madison (Division II, No. 1 in Power Poll) hosts Cincinnati Withrow, Sunbury Big Walnut (Division III, No. 1 in Power Poll) hosts Delaware Hayes, Mentor hosts Strongsville, Kettering Alter (Division IV, No. 2 in Power Poll) travels to Bellbrook, Columbus DeSales hosts Toledo St. John’s, St. Henry hosts Delphos St. John’s, Madison visits Geneva, Washington C.H. Miami Trace hosts Wilmington, Lima Central Catholic (Division V, No. 1 in Power Poll) visits Convoy Crestview, and Westerville Central hosts Westerville South.

On Saturday, Norwalk St. Paul (Division VI, No. 1 in Power Poll) visits Tiffin Calvert.


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