By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Chad Depee has been smiling a lot this week as his West squad prepares to tackle the East in the 12th annual Sertoma Grin Iron Classic.
“It’s fun to have this caliber of crew in the locker room and on the field,” he said. “They’ve talked a little bit about soreness here and there.
“You look at them, the guys are really good athletes. A lot of them are coming out of spring sports, lot of track athletes, lot of baseball players. I have been very pleased to see them getting used to putting cleats back on and putting pads back on. They don’t miss much.”
The game will kick off at 7:30 tonight at JFK Stadium on the Parkview campus in Springfield. Tickets are $6 apiece, and children 12 and under are admitted free.
Proceeds from the game are given to the “Tooth Truck,’ a mobile dental clinic for at-risk children who have no access to dental care. Since its inception in 2002, the “Tooth Truck” has helped more than 14,500 children with dental care and prevention education valued at more than $8.5 million.
“It’s an opportunity and honor to be able to do something you love to do — playing another football game — and do it with a service attitude,” Depee said. “They are doing something that is a great thing for a lot of needy kids. It’s a win-win situation.”
Depee, the head coach at Monett, has two of his assistants — Derrek Uhl and Jim Genzler — on this week’s staff along with Rick Scholten of Aurora, Lance Roweton of Bolivar, Joel Wells and Lance Jarman of Kickapoo and Mike Smith of Webb City. Tom Hodge, former Seneca head coach, is the honorary coach.
Will Christian of Lebanon is the East head coach. Ironically, the East’s honorary coach is Greg Simpkins, another former Seneca head coach.
The West team has been practicing this week in Monett.
“Trying to get kids from several communities gathering in one spot ... these kids are responsible,” Depee said. “One of the neatest things has been to see all the kids from different communities — some of them have been rivals — come in the same locker room and get to know each other.
“We have a couple of guys per position. We’ll be rotating kids in Friday night, keeping them fresh. They have all really worked well together. They are all coming into this game with the same purpose. They want to play one more high school football game and play for the West side.”