When they were sixth-graders at Southside Elementary, Mitchell Kelley and Aaron Kruchten played on the same PAAL football All-Star team.

After taking divergent paths through middle school and high school, Kelley and Kruchten are back on the same All-Star team this week. They’ll play for the South in Friday night’s 50th Indiana North-South All-Star Classic at North Central.

“I thought it was an honor to be selected and a great opportunity to be able to play football again,” said Kelley, a recent Columbus North graduate. “I’ve very excited to have the opportunity to get back to playing football again and hitting people.”

Kelley began his career as a quarterback. He was the starting signal caller for the Bull Dogs for part of his sophomore year and the first three games of his junior year before being moved to the defensive side of the ball.

As a safety last year, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Kelley was North’s leading tackler.

“I definitely enjoyed being able to hit people instead of being the one hit,” Kelley said. “I enjoyed aspects of the defensive side more than offense.”

Kruchten saw action on both sides of the ball for Columbus East last season. He played offensive tackle as a junior and guard and defensive tackle as a senior.

On Friday, Kruchten could play multiple positions on the offensive line.

“(Being selected for the game is) a really big honor,” Kruchten said. “It’s hard to get into, so I was really excited when I found out. It’s the 50th year for it, so that makes it a little bit more special.”

Kelley and Kruchten are following in a long line of Bull Dogs and Olympians to be selected for the All-Star games. Kelley said he talked to former North player Ezra Followell, who played in last year’s game.

Kruchten talked to East assistant coach Eddie Vogel, who has been an assistant in the All-Star Classic.

“I heard it’s a fun time and not super intense,” Kruchten said. “Most of the practices are focused on learning the offense.”

Because this year’s game is the 50th in the series, legendary coaches have been brought back to lead the teams. Former Penn coach Chris Geesman will guide the North, and former Carmel and Ben Davis coach Dick Dullaghan will lead the South.

Dullaghan and the South coaches hosted a picnic in May at Whiteland for the players and staff to become acquainted and pick up their playbooks.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Kruchten said. “I’m not going to take it super competitively. It’s a good game, and a bunch of alumni are coming back. I want to win the game, but it’s not about that.”

Both Kelley and Kruchten have spent part of their summers following workout plans given to them by their college coaches. Kelley will play at Rose-Hulman, and Kruchten is headed to Carnegie Mellon.

But Friday, they have another matter to attend

“I just hope to have a good time and help the All-Star team to a win,” Kelley said.

If you go

What: 50th Indiana North-South All-Star Football Classic

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: North Central High School, Indianapolis

Who: About 90 of the state’s top seniors, including Columbus East’s Aaron Kruchten and Columbus North’s Mitchell Kelley, who will play for the South

Author photo
Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.