Each year an estimated 5-7,000 fans pack LeBard Stadium on a Thursday or Friday night at Orange Coast College for the annual Brea Lions Club Orange County North-South Prep All-Star Game. Hosting this summertime game is one of the great Orange County sports traditions. 2016 marks the 57th Annual Orange County All-Star Game.
So why is the Brea Lions Club managing an All-Star Game in Costa Mesa?
The origin of the North-South game dates back to former Brea Olinda High and Orange Coast College Football Coach Dick Tucker, who was a member of the Brea Lions Club, and football and basketball coach at Brea at the time. He saw that the Shrine Game, played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, had only about 5-6 players a year were being selected from Orange County. He firmly felt that the best high school coaches and high school football in the state was played in Orange County, and he fostered the idea of having our own Orange County Game.
Tucker’s influence helped launch the game, and he served as the North All-Star Team’s first coach in August 1959. Tucker later became a legend at Orange Coast College, winning college national championships in 1963 and 1975. He also helped lead the charge in moving the game from the Santa Ana Bowl to LeBard Stadium.
Orange Coast College has been used for many years due to its central proximity to the many high schools in Orange County, and its capability of handling our large crowds, also it helps to have cooler weather while playing this in the summertime “It happens or be the finest football venue in the county!” The game is traditionally played in July as most of the players are preparing to go off to college.
Dick Tucker also helped found (OCYF) the Orange County Youth Foundation, Inc., getting it certified as a 501 (c) 3 charity to benefit the youth here in Orange County. Through OCYF, funds would be raised to support deserving youth programs in the County. OCYF was established in 1958 prior to the first game being played in August 1959.
The first game included players from 14 high schools in Orange County. We now have approximately 80. The boundaries have change over the years based on economic and population growth. In 2013 the boundaries that exist today were established. Today the North Team boundaries are west of the 55 Freeway and the 5 Freeway intersection and north of Warner Avenue. All schools south of this boundary represent the South Team.
Who has played in the game?
Since 1988 Brea Lions has the Orange County Prep Football Player of the Year as selected by the Orange County Sportswriters Association & other writers at the All-Star Recognition Banquet. Several notable players have received this honor and participated in the All-Star game.
The game has also attracted a Heisman Trophy Winner (John Huarte, QB, Mater Dei, Notre Dame, Chicago Bears), Olympic High Jump Gold Medalist in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City (Ed Caruthers, WR, Santa Ana Valley, Arizona, Detroit Lions), 1st Draft Pick in the 1992 MLB Draft (Phil Nevin, PK, El Dorado, CSUF, Chicago Cubs), a Brea Lion inspired to join after being a participant in the 1963 game (Phil Anton, DT/PK, Occidental College, Dallas Cowboys), and several NFL 1st round draft choices including: Mike Patterson, Rob Johnson, Sam Baker, and Tony Gonzales. Additionally, 200+ other former game participants have gone on to play professionally in the NFL, Arena Football, NFL Europe, USFL and Canadian Football League.
What Charities have benefited from the All-Star Game?
The original mission of the Lions throughout the world is to help overcome blindness. This challenge was presented to the Lions were presented this challenge by Helen Keller in 1925 when she attend the Lions Club International Convention and challenged the Lions to become, ”Knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.”
The Brea Lions Club accepted her challenge and have worked diligently since then to support families with youth in Orange County. The All-Star game has been the platform to raise over $2.0 million dollars for deserving youth charities over the past 56 years. Fundraising through Sponsor Support Packages, Ad sales, Ticket sales from the All-Star players, Game Programs, Booster clubs and the entire community working together as a team have allowed the Lions to support many meaningful causes.
Western Youth Services, CHOC, PADRE Foundation, O.C. Special Olympics, Help for the Brain Injured Children, Children Home Society, Orange County Big Brothers, Little School of Touch & Sound, Child and Family Guidance Centers, Services for the Blind, Teenage Resource Center, Brea Community Emergency Council, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, National Academy for Child Development, Children’s Home Society, Blind Children’s Learning Center and Brea Olinda USD Special Education are among the many charities to have received support. The Brea Lions Club is proud to have helped so many deserving youth charities.
In 2013 Brea Lions Club asked Western Youth Services to help lead a transformation from an All-Star Game to a countywide community “Super Bowl” event that will include an exciting Fan Fest with entertainment for the whole family. As the game and county have grown, so have the family needs. This forward movement has been created in the spirit of providing even more support to the charities of Orange County.
The key to the game is not necessarily blocking, tackling, and scoring touchdowns, but raising funds for the charities. Players swap helmet decals as a fun ritual, and every all-star gets a chance to play in the game. The real winners are the young children and youth in need of community support. YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
This Years Game
The 57th edition of the game will be played Friday, July 8th at Orange Coast College. Kickoff is targeted for 7:15 PM.