The 49th annual Ken Lantzy Finest 40 All-Star Football Game featured a highlight reel of offensive and defensive fireworks by both squads Friday night at Greater Johnstown’s Trojan Stadium.
The lead was traded back and forth and there were a number of ties, but in the end, a big run by Cory Myers of Conemaugh Township and an extra-point kick by his Indians’ teammate Logan Walerysiak delivered a 28-21 victory for the South.
“It was a great game. They made a play and then we made a play and it just kept going,” said South head coach Don Fyfe of Shade. “That run by Cory Myers there at the end was big. It was fourth and one and we were a second away from kicking a field goal and the guys said they wanted to go for it. They called for it and Cory did it.”
North head coach Kevin Marabito agreed that both teams played well.
“This is what the game is all about. It was a passing attack and you want to score,” Marabito said. “It was good both ways. They had some big plays and we had some big plays.
“The first half I thought we controlled the stats, but we couldn’t push the ball in and that’s a tribute to them.”
South quarterback Brady Fyfe of Shade threw for 166 yards going 7 for 12 with one interception and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a team-high 58 yards on 10 carries and was chosen the South’s offensive back MVP.
“It’s priceless to get this win with my son,” said Coach Fyfe, who played in the Ken Lantzy game 30 years ago.
“He threw for three touchdown passes and I think I only threw for two in this game. Guys made great catches.”
The teams were more conservative in the first half, which was low scoring and stood at 7-6 South at the half, but both squads opened their play books in the second half.
The South took the second half kickoff and marched 72 yards on six plays, capped by a 14-yard pass from Fyfe to Blacklick Valley’s Jude Gdula and a Walerysiak kick for a 14-6 lead.
The Yankees answered back to tie the game on a 10-play series ending with Ligonier Valley’s John Caldwell finding Damon Maul of Cambria Heights for the 7-yard strike.
Caldwell, who received the offensive back MVP award for the North, then added a throw to Rams teammate Aaron Tutino for the conversion and the tie at 14.
Less than a minute later, the South regained the lead as Fyfe found Gdula again, this time for a 27-yard score. Walerysiak’s kick put the South up 21-14.
But on the very next series, the North again knotted the game with West Shamokin’s Brendon Mondi scoring from the 2 and Westmont Hilltop’s Brandon Kaseler adding the extra-point kick.
That set up the final series of heroics for Myers and company.
The North had two more chances to score, but one ended on a punt and the other on downs with time winding down.
The North got on the scoreboard first, putting together a 10-play drive capped by a 2-yard Ben Vasil run.
The series was highlighted by Joe Hauser of Richland’s passes to Jake Shope of Forest Hills (eight yards), Mason Stoup of Conemaugh Valley (11 yards) and Tutino of Ligonier Valley (11 yards). Tutino finished with a team-high eight catches for 139 yards.
Initially, the North was going to kick, but after a penalty cut the distance in half, the Yankees tried a run by Camden Moors of Westmont Hilltop. He was stopped shy of the goal line for a 6-0 North lead at the 1:37 mark of the first.
The South broke into the scoring column on a big play as Shade teammates, quarterback Fyfe and wide receiver Dawson Snyder hooked up for an 87-yard completion on the first play from scrimmage at the 9:44 mark of the second quarter. Walerysiak of Conemaugh Township added the extra point for a 7-6 Rebels lead.
“The first half, we played really good defense, and that’s really what kept us in the game there,” said Conemaugh Township’s Jordan Poznanski, who had two interceptions and was selected as the South defensive back MVP. “Everyone here is very talented, and we made a lot of plays down the stretch, and we came out with the win. Just to be a part of this game is a great experience overall.”
Notes: The Paul Shandor scholarship for leadership was presented to the North’s Bryce McCleester, while the Dave Rizzo leadership scholarship went to the South’s Marcus Wirfel. ...Benjamin Geary of Somerset won the Arthur R. Palumbo $1,000 scholarship for academic excellence, and Cole Weist of Tussey Mountain received the Robert P. Gardill $500 scholarship. ...Other awards for the South included Brandon Dawson of Bedford as the top offensive lineman and Kyle Guyer of Northern Bedford as the defensive line standout. ...For the North, Richland’s Dylan Dinniny received the offensive line award, Adam Ratkus of Blairsville was the defensive back winner and Damon Lemin of Tussey Mountain was the defensive line recipient.