As good as the talent is in the Virginia High School Coaches Association All-Star Games, the quality of the contests occasionally doesn't measure up. The reason is that in all sports other than football the teams practice only once before playing.
Technically, that's true of the East squad in boys soccer, which practiced on Tuesday ahead of its game against the West at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Christopher Newport University. But the East will have an advantage that few other teams enjoy in VHSCA all-star games: six of its players were on the same club team.
Sammy Blosser (Menchville), Alex Emerson (Lafayette), Reilly Maw (Tabb), Calvin Mitchell (Lafayette), Jack Nichting (Menchville) and Emery Trott (Lafayette) were all teammates with the Williamsburg-based Virginia Legacy. If that weren't enough to guarantee more-than-usual cohesiveness, Jamestown's Bobby O'Brien, their coach with the Legacy, is one of the East's coaches.
"I don't think we've ever had this many Legacy players in the all-star game," said O'Brien, who noted that Legacy alum Mitchell Williams of AA state champion Blacksburg is on the West squad. "We're absolutely going to make sure that all six are on the field together at times.
"I think they are six of the best eight or nine players on the team. And in this kind of all-star game it takes time for a team to figure it out because of the different styles. To have this many players who know each other on the field together will definitely help."
Calvin Mitchell, a Group AA All-State selection for Region I champion Lafayette, agreed with O'Brien.
"I definitely think we'll have a lot of chemistry," said Mitchell, a midfielder whose booming and accurate free kicks accounted for many of his 16 assists for the Rams. "We were very good together as a club.
"We pushed each other, were competitive with each other and strove to be the best. We also stuck together off the field."
Mitchell gave an assessment of the strengths each of his Legacy teammates will bring to the East squad.
Emerson (goalkeeper): "He is a big, strong guy and is hard-headed. Not much gets by him and he's not afraid of the ball."
Trott (defender): "We called him 'Stonewall Trott' at Lafayette. He could knock the ball down in the back and was great with the headers in the air. He's one of the better backs I've seen.
Maw (forward): "He was the best goal scorer in the Bay Rivers District (with 28 in 2013) and probably the best in the state. He's confident on the ball and really knows how to put it in the back of the net."
Blosser (defender): "He played on the back left and had a cannon of a left foot. He plays very strategically and has a really good free kick."
Nichting (midfield): He has real fancy footwork in the middle and definitely controls the tempo. He's like Reilly in that he has a lot of confidence and can do what he wants in the middle."
Mitchell added that Grafton's Brian Anderson, a Bay Rivers player not from the Legacy, adds depth in the middle and will help because of his familiarity with the other locals. He has little doubt O'Brien can help put it all together.
"He's a natural winner," Mitchell said. "He understands game tempo and how to win."
O'Brien, who has guided Jamestown to two state titles, is coaching the East for the fourth time. He says the all-star game never gets old.
"It a great event and a great environment for the kids," he said. "It's pretty cool that (the six Legacy players) are together for their final high school game."
While all want to excel, a lack of familiarity among the players makes some of the all-star game outcomes less than do or die. O'Brien will have no such problem.
"I know we'll all be very competitive," Mitchell said. "We're not going to take this game lightly."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun