Since the high school football season has been over for more than six months you could make an argument that next Thursday’s 40th annual All-Shore Gridiron Classic is the start of next season.

However in truth the Ocean versus Monmouth All-Star game is really the final game of last season and for many the last time they will play a football game.  For the first time ever Shore Regional will host New Jersey’s longest-running summer All-Star game which is set for Thursday, June 29th at Robert E. Feeney Field.

Teams will begin practice this weekend at the home fields of the two head coaches, Lakewood’s LJ Clark and Derek Sininsky of St. John Vianney. While roster changes are commonplace leading up to the start of practice both coaching staffs will have plenty of talent to use even if some players have opted to play in the North-South game at Kean University this coming Monday.

The Ocean County squad includes record-setting running back Mike Bickford of Central Regional and tackling machine Pete LaQuaglia of Toms River North.

Monmouth County boasts a lineup that features running back Chris Chukwuneke of St. John Vianney and hard-hitting safety Maxx Imsho of Middletown South.

As often happens in this game players who were not always headline-grabbers rise to the occasion and help their team pull out a victory.

What makes the All-Shore Classic special is the natural rivalry between those of the two counties. Monmouth has more schools and more talent to choose from but Ocean has often used that to their advantage by playing the role of a big underdog that comes together as a team during the week.

Ocean County has won the last three games, including 14-7 last year at Central Regional High School.  Monmouth still leads the overall series 20-18 with one game ending in a tie.

Next Thursday’s 40th annual game presented by the Shore Football Coaches Foundation will be broadcast live on the Shore Sports Network’s 1160/1310AM.

Leading up to the game check out shoresportsnetwork.com for rosters, game previews and more.