Nothing will ever match the build-up and excitement surrounding the first All Star football game in the summer of 1978 in which a group of recent Ocean County high school graduates beat their contemporaries from Monmouth County, 21-7. It was then called the Asbury Park Press All-Shore Classic and the inaugural game drew over 8,000 fans at Wall Stadium which, was not the ideal location.

The lighting was poor, the goal posts were crooked and there were lug nuts found on the field. After all, Wall Stadium was and still is home for racing and not football.

That first game was a mega event featuring legendary coaches Warren Wolf of Brick and Jack Hawkins of Manasquan. Hawkins arrived in a chauffeured driven Rolls Royce and was wearing a white tuxedo with a top hat, cane and gloves. I would imagine Wolf was wearing his customary grey suit.

That warm August night began a summer-time tradition and while the name has changed, for the 39th consecutive year players from the two counties will battle for the bragging rights of the Jersey Shore.

Now known as the U.S. Army All-Shore Gridiron Classic, this year’s game will feature a pair of firsts. It will be played on Thursday, June 30, which marks the earliest date in game history, and for the first time it will be held at Central Regional’s Joseph J. Boyd Memorial Field. That facility has been upgraded in recent years and is one of the best around, and with access right off the Garden State Parkway it should serve as an ideal setting for the game.

The head coaches are Dave Oizerowitz of Toms River North and Raritan’s Anthony Petruzzi, who both guided their teams to state sectional titles in December. They have something else in common: both were selected to play in the game when they were in high school, so they understand what it means to be part of a long-running tradition.

Our Shore Sports Network is the official media partner of the Shore Football Coaches Foundation, which hosts and runs the game, and we will provide updated information in the weeks to come on

Ocean County won last year’s game, 27-7, but Monmouth leads the overall series 20-17 with one game ending in a tie.