The Kansas vs. Missouri All-Star Game has become much more than an annual contest between cross-state prep rivals.

“It’s an event,” said Tony Wrisinger, who has served as the co-executive director of the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association for the past 12 years with his good friend and colleague Brian Johnston. “It’s so much more than a football game. Since there are no more border war football or basketball games with Missouri and Kansas universities, this is the only real time players from both sides of the state get to take the field and play for their state.

“Since Brian and I became the co-executive directors, the game has continued to grow and grow.”

Johnston is quick to add, “We’re going to have more than 4,000 fans at the game Thursday and the players and coaches and their fans are really excited about it. And it looks like it’s going to be played in about 78-degree weather, which is perfect.”

When asked about personal highlights from the game, Wrisinger and Johnston just grin and shake their heads.

“I haven’t seen any because I’ve been too busy working the game,” Johnston said, as Wrisinger nods in agreement. “I think Tony and I finish up with everything the night of the game with about three or four minutes left in the fourth quarter.”

The Missouri team has been practicing the past week at Van Horn High School, as Falcons head coach William Harris is the Missouri head coach this year. He is joined by members of his staff and other coaches from throughout the metro area.

“This game is an event and a chance to showcase the talent we have in Missouri,” Harris said. “For me personally, to have our (Van Horn) quarterback, Shaun Ross on the team is a huge step for our program here at Van Horn.

“Kids can go to the game, who will go to Van Horn, and say, ‘Shaun is an all-star and I could be one, too.’ And that’s how you build a football program.”

Ross agreed, although he took no personal recognition for the all-star honor.

“I get to compete with the best athletes in Missouri and I get to work with Coach Harris and other great coaches from the state and I look over and see our high school when we’re practicing and I just get filled with pride,” Ross said. “I’m here because of all my coaches and teammates at Van Horn and I want to do a great job representing them and my state.”

Johnston said all the behind the scenes work pays huge dividends on game night.

“It’s like a symphony,” said Johnston, who has teamed with Wrisinger on their award-winning Vision Sports broadcasts of Blue Spring and Blue Springs South high school football the past 23 years. “You don’t see all the behind the scenes things – like getting a doctor for the game, or a trainer at the Missouri and Kansas practice sessions or the volunteers at the concession stands and ticket windows.

“It takes so many people to pull this off, and it just gets bigger and better every year.”

VISION SPORTS AWARDS: Vision Sports play-by-play man Rob Evans won his fourth consecutive Missouri State Broadcasters Association play-by-play broadcast award (large market) Saturday night at the association’s annual gathering.

“We won our 18th award,” Wrisinger said. “Just winning it once would be a great achievement. A great part of all of this is working with great school districts, the best sponsors and a passionate radio audience. The best part is working with great people you not only enjoy working with, but who are consummate professionals who care about the broadcast and each other.”

The Wildcats and Jaguars games have been broadcast on Real Country 1030 AM KCWJ since its inception in 1997.

Former play-by-play men Dale Carter and Johnston each won seven awards, while Evans has swept the honors the past four years, winning both the first-place and runner-up honors.

“Rob’s the best of the best,” Wrisinger said. “Everyone at KCWJ and Vision Sports is passionate about what we do, and it’s great that people appreciate our passion. It is all about the people you surround yourself with and we have been blessed to be surrounded by the very best.”