Mayfield's Trey Cooper realizes tonight will be the last time he'll get to put on the cleats as a high school football player.
Cooper and teammates from western Kentucky will host their counterparts from southern Illinois in their ninth annual all-star football game at 7 tonight in Marquette Stadium at McCracken County High School.
"It's just great," said Cooper, who will play on the offensive line at right guard. "I know I'm going to miss the sport of football, and me being able to come out here and practice and wear this red helmet again means a lot. It's been a very special week for me."
The western Kentucky team is populated by graduated seniors who played for Caldwell County, Christian County, Graves County, Fort Campbell, Hopkinsville, Marshall County, Mayfield, McCracken County, Murray, Paducah Tilghman, Trigg County and Union County.
The Southern Illinois team includes two athletes from Massac County.
For others, like Murray's Will Langford, Paducah Tilghman's Tre Coleman or Massac County's Peyton Hall or Austin Kendall, tonight's game â “ and the three days of practice that led up to it â “ are reminders of the rigors they'll face in little over a month at fall football practice in college.
Langford is going to Lindsey Wilson, Coleman is walking on at Western Kentucky, Hall is going to Lindenwood and Kendall will play for McKendree. Team Western Kentucky practiced once on Tuesday, three times on Wednesday, and once more and had picture day on Thursday.
"It's been great, because it's allowed us to get here and do some work to get ready for college football," said Langford, who will play at left tackle. "And definitely the way things have been set up out here with the offense we're running has been getting me ready for college football."
Said Coleman, who will play at running back: "It's just been extra practices to help us get in shape and to stay in shape as we get ready to move to the next level."
Plus, there's been the added fun of practicing with people who for years were rivals on the football field.
"For four years, and some longer than that, we've been going at it against each other," said Graves County quarterback Peyton Puckett, who recently signed to play basketball at Western Kentucky Community & Technical College. "But we've had a good time here and it's been a lot of fun playing with these guys."
Said Western Kentucky All-Stars head coach and Caldwell County coach David Barnes: "When we started this game a few years ago we thought it was going to be good because it gives the kids an opportunity to play. The Southern Illinois coaches have always been great to work with and it's always been fun for the kids. It's three days of having fun. We also enjoy this as coaches because we've coached against these kids and now we get to coach them."
But make no mistake, the West Kentucky all stars are in the game to win it and are looking to tie the series at five apiece. West Kentucky won last year's game 42-20 at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale and is looking to match the two-game winning streak it had when it won in 2010 and 2011.
"It's been a great honor to practice with the guys and the great talent on this field," Puckett said. "Right now we're taking it all in, but we know we have a big challenge in front of us."
Said Langford: "It's going to be hard-hitting football. We've been working all week. We're Western Kentucky football players. We don't go out on the field unless we're knocking people in the head. We want to win this. We're going to go out there to win. I don't know anyone who plays to lose. We're just trying as hard as we can so we can get the W."
Call James D. Horne, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8661 or follow on Twitter @psunsports.
Western Kentucky All-Star Football Team
Jay McAplin Mayfield OL
Austin McGowan Caldwell Co. OL
Tate Baker Christian Co. OL
Kyler Kendall Caldwell Co. OL
Will Langford Murray OL
Trey Cooper Mayfield OL
Bryan Carter Union Co. OL
Dylan Bennett Christian Co. OL
Deion Jackson Mayfield WR
Marquez Rollinger Fort Campbell WR
Schuyler Vowell Graves Co. WR
Dee Killibrew Hopkinsville WR
Luke McKenzie Trigg Co. WR/QB
Jordan Smith Graves Co. WR
Jordan Troutman McCracken Co. RB
Tre Coleman Paducah Tilghman RB
Ryan Humphrey Murray RB
Jake Guhy Mayfield QB
Peyton Puckett Graves Co. QB
Schafer Putz Murray K
Evan McCombs Graves Co. K
Dustin Vessell Graves Co. LB
Terrell Wimberly Christian Co. LB
Christian Noble Fort Campbell LB
Khalill Baker Hopkinsville LB
Noah Nichols Marshall Co. LB
Jayven Jones Trigg Co.
Marcus Cook Christian Co. LB
Dylan Boone Murray DB
Jarrell Foster Union Co. DB
Anthony Williams Hopkinsville DB
Dylan Upchurch Murray DB
Tayo Crumble Mayfield DB
TJ Bell Christian Co. DB
John Hayden Mayfield DL
Jacob Mason Trigg Co. DL
Joseph Freeland Christian Co. DL
Ethan Edwards Christian Co. DL
Southern Illinois All-Star Football Team
Peyton Hall Massac Co. OL
Austin Kendall Massac Co. WR