For 35 years, the Shrine All-Star high school football game has showcased some of the state's premier players with the charity event benefiting the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children in Los Angeles.
But this year, the promoters are approaching the game, scheduled for Aug. 2 at the Rose Bowl, with a less-than-charitable attitude.
When the 60 players who will compete in the game were selected a month ago, they were informed by a letter that they could not play in any other all-star game. Shrine publicist Jerry Weiner said the rule was made because game officials "didn't want the players getting hurt in another all-star game.
"We're spending thousands of dollars to promote this game. What happens if we advertise a player and he gets hurt before our game?"
The ruling didn't sit well with the Brea Lions' Club. The organization is the sponsor of the Orange County All-Star game scheduled for July 11 at LeBard Stadium. The game benefits four county charities.
"They're acting like they're the NFL and we're the USFL," said Phil Anton, board member of the Brea Lions' Club. "We've always supported the Shriners and cooperated with them. But they're trying to take all the glamour away from our game.
"We outdrew the Shrine game last year. We were the first regional all-star game, and all the others, like in San Jose and the South Bay, patterned themselves after us."
Six county players--offensive linemen Darran Baird (Dana Hills), Greg Gerardi (Irvine) and Lance Zeno (Fountain Valley); quarterback Scott Stark (Capistrano Valley); kicker Gary Coston (Mater Dei) and defensive lineman Don Gibson (El Modena)--were selected to play in the Shrine game.
Stark established a county single-season passing record with 3,154 yards and threw 29 touchdown passes. Coston kicked 15 field goals in two seasons. Gibson was The Times' Lineman of the Year. Zeno was a Parade magazine All-American.
It's likely that they would have been selected to play in the Orange County all-star game. They originally were told that they could not compete in the county game, but Shrine officials rescinded the ruling last week.
"I told the six boys they were free to accept an invitation to play in the Orange County game," Weiner said. "We placed a moratorium for this year only to allow the boys to compete in both games if they want."
Gibson is the only player among the six planning to play in the county game. The South team will be announced on Saturday and the North team on May 10.
"We met to get our pictures taken and afterwards they gathered all the Orange County players together and told us we could play (in both games)," Coston said. "Most of the guys had already planned to play only in the Shrine game.
"Most of us report to college right after the Shrine game. It's going to be a short summer, so I felt one game was enough."
Anton, who played in the 1963 county all-star game, said he didn't like the attitude of the Shrine promoters.
"If a kid like Stark wants to play in the Shrine game, that's fine," Anton said. He said he would "love to have him (Stark) in our game, but there are a lot of good players in this area. But do you think it's right to tell a kid he can't play in our game?"
The Shrine game will feature players from throughout the state, reverting to the game's original format for the first time since 1973. California's "Super Sixty" is the theme for the event.
But if this game is a gathering of all-stars, why wasn't Valencia running back Ray Pallares selected to play? Pallares gained 5,398 yards in a brilliant three-year career to establish a state record.
The Shrine game rosters apparently were determined with the help of lists of top high school players compiled by several Pacific 10 schools. Pallares wasn't highly ranked on the list.
But it's difficult to ignore Pallares' accomplishments. He broke Myron White's county record of 4,164 yards and then Whittier Christian's Craig Johnson's Southern Section mark of 5,213 yards.
Boosters sold buttons and towels publicizing Pallares' achievements as he rewrote the record book. He gained more publicity than any other prep player in 1985. Yet Pallares wasn't even selected as one of the 36 alternates for the South team.