There are plenty of obstacles to coaching a high school all-star football team in the first two weeks of June.
Practices will be held in the teeth of graduation season. There are parties, Senior Week plans and other things that players ending their high school careers have on their minds. Plus, there are rules to get used to and game plans to design and limited time to do it all.
Yet, Kyle Haas and Mark Versuk, the head coaches for the 47th annual McDonald’s Lehigh Valley All-Star Football Classic set for 7 p.m. June 15 at Nazareth’s Andy Leh Stadium, are excited to be involved with the special game.
Haas, who was the interim head coach at Bethlehem Catholic last fall and led the Golden Hawks to an 11-4 season that included a District 11 4A championship and the program’s first trip to the state semis since 2000, will coach the Gold team (Northampton County, Palisades and Phillipsburg).
Versuk, who led Pleasant Valley to an 8-3 record and the top-yardage offense in the EPC North in his first season in charge, will lead the Red (Lehigh, Carbon and Monroe County).
Both are aware of the challenges ahead but say they are willing to take them on because they consider it an honor to be selected to coach a game that has been a Lehigh Valley fixture for close to a half-century.
“For me, it’s a fitting way to end a remarkable season,” said Haas, who was cleared to coach in the game because he agreed to do it before taking a job as running backs coach at Moravian College. “I was a part of this game two years ago as an assistant and the really neat thing about it is that you are coaching kids from multiple high schools, some of them being your rivals. It’s your job to bring them together in about nine days of practice.
“I look forward to meeting a lot of the kids we coached against and I’m humbled that I was picked to coach in the game,” Haas added. “What I know about this game is that in a short period of time, you can make friendships and form relationships that can last a long time.”
Haas said he got to meet the kids who were selected a few months ago.
“I’d say about 75 percent of the kids who were selected were there and some of the kids who are going to play in the game weren’t there, and we got to tell them our expectations,” Haas said. “Since that meeting, I’ve been corresponding with a lot of the kids and I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback. A lot of them are excited to play in the game. We start practice on Monday night and we’re going to get after it.”
Haas will get to coach six Golden Hawks one more time and he’ll also get to coach with many of the guys who were on his Becahi staff — Gene Legath, Nick Artinger, Dan Muir and Jack Daddona. Muir is headed to Pocono Mountain East to join Rob Melosky’s new staff and Daddona will return to the Lower Macungie youth program. Liberty head coach John Truby will also be on the staff.
Versuk, who played in the 1995 McDonald’s game, will coach seven of his former Bears. The maximum is supposed to be six from one school, but the team was shorthanded at the tight end position with Allen’s Marcus Dileo-Vereen unable to play because of illness. Versuk had to turn to one of his former players, Ben Bard, to take the tight end spot.
“We know we’re going be shorthanded a little bit every night, and missing some guys here and there,” he said. “We know that each guy has his own position, but we’re going to make sure that each guy is prepared to play on both sides of the ball. We need to have a lot of guys ready to go and we’ll coach them up so they can be ready for anything. They’re all athletes. They can handle it.”