The clock is ticking. All pads aren't popping.

As preparations continue for the 33rd annual Daily News-Eagles City All-Star Football Game, which will match the city's top seniors in a Public/Non-Public format on Saturday, May 19 (7 p.m.) at Northeast High, the Pub finds itself at a distinct disadvantage.

Only half of the 50 players have After each season, helmets/shoulder pads, etc., are sent out for reconditioning. The goods should have been returned by March 1, but they remain unavailable due to past missed payments.

Robert Coleman, director of athletics for the school district, acknowledged a problem but said: "I'm under the impression everyone now has equipment. If this is unresolved, I'm not aware . . . I'll look into this again first thing [today]."

Coleman said money originally paid to Riddell (equipment manufacturers) for reconditioning after the 2006 season instead wound up being applied for costs incurred after '04 and '05.

"Things fell through the cracks," Coleman said. "We were not aware of that [nonpayment] issue. Riddell was going through [personnel] changes. The problem was more theirs than ours."

Frank Conway, head coach at Central and an assistant with the PL squad, said there were promises two tequipment.

imes last week that the issue would be resolved in short order.

"We had our first practice in pads Friday," he said. "Still nothing. Half the kids couldn't participate."

The other half did, he added, because they represented schools where not all gear needed to be sent out.

"I was able to outfit my Central kids, but barely," he said. "We really scrambled."

The Pub is scheduled to practice every day this week except Thursday, with a full-scale intraquad scrimmage on Saturday.

"This is just some naysayers who wanna cry," Coleman said. "There's enough available equipment. Schools don't want to lend it out."

If the situation continues much longer, the game could be in jeopardy. It's doubtful the directors, due to liability issues, would allow the teams to meet should the Pub squad not go through a sufficient number of in-pads practices. *