BLOOMINGTON — Football fans may think the most important event during this week's Illinois Coaches Association Shrine All-Star Game festivities is Saturday's 11 a.m game at Illinois Wesleyan.
Not so, says former Normal Community High School and Illinois State player and Eureka College coach Darrell Crouch, who now coaches at Washington High School.
The biggest event for Crouch, a West defensive line coach this week, was Wednesday's trip to the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Chicago where All-Stars met youngsters who will benefit from the proceeds of Saturday's 45th annual game.
Nearly $33,000 was raised last year as the East topped the West, 26-20, to shrink its all-time series deficit to 27-16.
"It's definitely a life changer," said Crouch of Wednesday's trip. "It makes you open your eyes and see what's out there."
Another treat for Crouch was seeing Washington quarterback Caleb Fisher on the West roster. Fisher had two older brothers appear in the all-star game.
"I'm thinking three (all-star siblings) has got to be close to the record," Crouch said.
Among Fisher's East counterparts is Normal Community quarterback Daylen Boddie, whose brother, Callen, played in the 2013 all-star game. Boddie hopes this week prepares him for the opening of practice at McKendree.
"There is a lot of good competition here," Boddie said. "There is going to be a good competition in college, so hopefully this makes us better."
The East coaching staff includes assistant Brian Hassett of Streator, who is making his third all-star appearance.
"We want our kids to not think and just play," said Hassett, who coaches the defensive backs. "Just keep it basic and let them fly around."
Among the West assistants is all-star rookie Jason Bachman of Eureka.
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"Having this opportunity, I'm very thankful," said Bachman, who predicts the defenses won't dominate.
"There are two pretty good offensive coaches (in West head coach Alan Thorson of Morris and East head coach Derek Leonard of Rochester). I'm sure they are going to make something happen."
Thorson relishes having so much talent at his disposal.
"You are talking about the best athletes in the state," he said. "From a coaching standpoint, you've got to be excited about that."
Thorson wishes he'd had more time to prepare.
"In five days (of practice), you can only do so much," he said. "We want to be able to put some stuff in and you want to be able to have some fun with them. But at the same time, if you overwhelm them, it's not going to look good.
"Just the little I've seen of these games in the past, it seems like the 'D' always starts out well just because the defense has a little bit of an advantage to start. But I think as the game goes on, I think you'll see the offenses get more comfortable."
Looking at the East roster, Leonard, who played in the 1998 all-star game, felt he had "the best of the best."
A proponent of the no-huddle offense, Leonard hasn't gotten that sophisticated this week.
"I think for the all-star game, you've got to keep it basic," he said. "You want to score points, but you also don't want a bunch of mistakes. Sometimes in these all-star games, there can be a ton of mistakes. You want to be as efficient and clean as you can. That's what we're looking for."
Pantagraph area players: The West roster includes Eureka's Alex Brittain and Normal West's Garrett Rhode.
The East squad includes Reeves Wester of NCHS, El Paso-Gridley's Ryne Faulk, Fieldcrest's Derek May, Prairie Central's Jonah Miller, Fisher's Tanner Diorio, Pontiac's Eric Watson, Central Catholic's Patrick Namoff, Streator's Brandon Durdan and Hayden Workman of GCMS.