Stars arrive in Everett to prepare for annual prep football game

The lobby of the Holiday Inn Downtown Everett was bustling Monday morning, crammed with talented football players kicking off a busy week of gridiron fun.

Nearly 60 players are in town for Saturday’s annual Class 3A/4A East-West All-Star Football Game. The players, who will stay at the Holiday Inn, are Class of 2010 high school graduates who were selected this past winter by coaches for the prestigious summer event.

Eight players from Western Conference schools checked in and are ready to play for the West team: Arlington teammates Andy Smith and Conner Varnell, Jackson’s Taylor Mead, Mariner’s Mychael Tuiasosopo, Cascade’s Chris McGrath, Oak Harbor’s Nick Rouser, Marysville-Pilchuck’s Kyle Bossom and Snohomish’s Loren Danielson. Mark Stewart of Meadowdale is the West head coach.

Until Monday, most East-West players hadn’t donned football pads since mid- to late-November. Including their first three-hour session Monday afternoon, they have eight practices before Saturday’s game, which kicks off at 1 p.m. at Everett Memorial Stadium.

“I’m really excited,” said Bossom, a lineman who earned Herald All-Area first-team and All-Wesco North first-team honors at Marysville-Pilchuck. “I can’t wait to see how I measure up.

“I hope my size doesn’t stop me,” said the 6-foot Bossom, who weighs 205 pounds. “That’s what I’m worried about.”

Meadowdale’s Connor Hamlett, an Oregon State University recruit, was picked to play for the West team. But the 6-foot-7 tight end/defensive end called East-West Game coordinator Paul Lawrence Sunday night and told Lawrence he “wasn’t ready” to participate, Lawrence said.

Stewart, who coached Hamlett at Meadowdale, said Monday that Hamlett, a three-sport athlete for the Mavericks, is tired from a busy senior year and recent graduation activities, and needed a break before he reports to Oregon State next week.

West team selection Khayree Johnson of Rainier Beach also was a no-show. Johnson, a 6-2 wide receiver/defensive back, told Lawrence on Monday via phone that he would not participate.

Lawrence said he would try to find some alternates to replace Hamlett and Johnson. Instead of dwelling on the late dropouts, Lawrence tried to keep the focus on athletes who were excited to be a part of the East-West experience.

“The kids that are here want to play,” Lawrence said, “and they are going to have a great time.”

Another West player, Seattle Prep’s Joey DeRitis, was absent when players checked in Monday. The defensive back/running back is sick with the flu and it’s unclear if he will participate this week, Lawrence said.

The East team head coach is Dave Miller of Lakes High School. Like Stewart, this is Miller’s first head-coaching gig for an East-West Game.

The East team features defensive lineman Sione Potoa’e, a highly rated University of Washington recruit who played for Miller at Lakes. The 6-foot-3, 285-pound Potoa’e was a 3A all-state first-team selection and the South Puget Sound League 3A Defensive Lineman of the Year. He is the state’s No. 2 Class of 2010 college recruit, according to Scout.com.

Potoa’e wasn’t with the East team on Monday but had a good excuse: Lakes’ graduation ceremony was Monday afternoon. Potoa’e is expected to join the East squad today.

After checking in at the hotel Monday morning, players completed physical exams and posed for team photos at Everett Memorial. Then the teams practiced on adjacent fields for about three hours, giving players a chance to get back in a football mindset and get to know their new teammates and coaches. Wearing helmets and shoulder pads but not in full uniform, the players warmed up and did an assortment of limited-contact drills.

The teams each have two practices today: 9-11 a.m. and 3-5 p.m. Practices are open to the public all week.

Mike Cane: mcane@heraldnet.com. Check out the prep sports blog Double Team at www.heraldnet.com/doubleteam.

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