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Players ready for 'last ride' as 40th Bob Cleverley 8-Man All-Star Game looms

Posted at 3:27 PM, May 29, 2024

BUTTE — Recently graduated Forsyth receiver Omar Oaks didn't pick up the game of football until his junior year. And now his brief but memorable time of suiting up and representing the Dogies is set to conclude this Saturday.

Like the majority of the players who will take the field for the 40th Bob Cleverley 8-Man All-Star game — kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Bob Green Field — Oaks won't be playing at the collegiate level come fall. But the aspiring real estate agent has gleaned plenty of lessons from his time on the gridiron that should serve him well outside of football.

"It really molds a person into a good individual," said Oaks. "Respectful, disciplined, waking up on time — it's harder than you think. Making your bed every morning. It just builds that rock-solid base that you need for life."

Oaks is a member of the Blue Team, which is made up of players from the 8-Man Northern, Western and Southeast divisions. The Blue Team will be looking for back-to-back Clev wins this weekend after earning its first win in the series since 2019 last season.

Leading the Blue Team will be Belt head football coach Matt Triplett, who will get one final chance to coach his son Ethan before he joins Carroll College's football program this fall. He understands that for a lot of players like Oaks, this is the last hurrah and winning on Saturday is important, but not as much as making this week a memorable sendoff.

"A lot of these kids, this is their last opportunity to play football," said Triplett, who has guided the Huskies to consecutive 8-Man championship games with Belt winning the title in 2022. "So it's a good way for those seniors to go out on a good note, regardless of what their season was like."

Belt and Charlo lead the Blue Team with five players each on its roster and Forsyth has four.

Former Arlee running back and tight end Jake Knoll is one member of this year's All-Star game who will get the opportunity to play college football with MSU Northern. Joining him on the Blue Team are Warrior teammates Kendall O'Neill and Jace Arca.

"I'm excited," said Knoll. "This is the last ride with a couple of my boys. Even if they weren't on my team in high school, they're my boys now. It's gonna be a blast."

The Red Team — comprised of players from the Eastern and South Central 8-Man divisions — is led by Fairview head coach Derek Gackle. The Warriors, who have five players on the Red roster, finished the 2023 season undefeated and handed Belt its only two losses, including beating the Huskies 40-28 in the title game.

"I love 8-Man football. It's exciting we're gonna put a lot of points on the board," said Gackle of his Blue Team as they look to avenge last season's loss. "The kids are gonna work hard. And small towns rally around their football teams. It's a really exciting time to be a part of it."

The Ennis Mustangs saw three players make the Red Team, including quarterback Clintin Buyan who helped guide Ennis into the 8-Man semifinals last season. Knowing that the 8-Man All-Star Game's namesake hailed from his hometown and helped bring three championships to Ennis (1978, 1982, 1983) makes suiting up as a Mustang one final time extra meaningful.

"It makes it a little more special," said Buyan. "(Cleverley was) from Ennis. It's kind of like a reunion almost. When I heard my name called for the Bob Cleverley game, I was pretty pumped about that."