Mercury Swaim, Justin Walbeck

South quarterback Mercury Swaim from Bedford, left, escapes the grasp of North linebacker Justin Walbeck from Homer-Center during the 51st Ken Lantzy Finest 40 All-Star Classic in Windber, PA., Friday, June 17, 2022.

WINDBER, Pa. – Despite not being slated to play offense, Logan Kent just wanted one more opportunity to play on that side of the ball in the 51st Ken Lantzy “Finest 40” All-Star Football Classic.

Kent rushed for two touchdowns, caught a score and threw for another on his way to winning the MVP and lifting the South to a 42-35 victory over the North on Friday at Windber Stadium.

“The similarity to our offense back at Conemaugh Valley – we ran the same exact offense – double wing,” said Kent, who ran for scores from 8 and 6 yards out in the first half. “This is a single wing, but you got the shotgun and it’s almost the same thing. Just coming from that, it helped me just run the ball better because I’m used to it.”

It’s a good thing South coach Matt Grohal, who led Windber to a WestPAC title in 2021, was so quick to accommodate the move, which in turn sent Nick Dom to the defensive side.

“Those guys both wanted to switch sides of the ball,” Grohal said. “First day, he’s in a black jersey on defense. So we took the kicker’s jersey and put it on him. He (Kent) had a great week of preparation. He’s very deserving of winning that award.”

Grohal said the pleasure was all his when it came to coaching the South squad.

“These guys just played great and they were great kids all week,” said Grohal. “The parents that raised these kids did a great job. They were a class act and we had no issues.”

The former Blue Jay rushed 12 times for 76 yards in part because of the blocking of South offensive line MVP and former Bishop McCort Crusher, Joe McGowan. Kent caught a 15-yard touchdown pass with just seven seconds to play in the first half to give the South a 21-14 lead heading into halftime.

But his performance was only rivaled by his quarterback and former Bedford standout Mercury Swaim.

Swaim, who was 13 of 18 for 224 yards and two touchdowns, rolled out and hit a wide open Kaden Claar for a 43-yard touchdown that proved to be the game winner with just 1:44 left in the fourth quarter.

The play was a bit different than the style of offense the South was running for most of the evening. It tricked some of the North defenders, which made for an easy pitch and catch from Swaim to the former Portage weapon.

“I knew on the play action we might get a couple defenders to bite because we’ve been running jet a bunch and stuff like that,” said Swaim, who also rushed for 73 yards on 13 carries. “We faked that and they all bit for the jet. I saw him wide open, and I was like, ‘I just can’t mess this up.’ So I gave it to an athlete and let him run in space and he made some plays for me.”

Claar finished with five catches for 79 yards. Windber product Keith Charney racked up 98 yards receiving on three catches, including a 42-yard touchdown from Kent with 9:44 remaining in the third quarter.

Earlier in the fourth with the South down, 28-27, Angelo Bartollini powered in for a 3-yard touchdown. Swaim capped the drive by finding former Conemaugh Township wideout Jackson Byer for a good 2-point conversion try to put the South on top 35-28.

But the North, led by former Richland signal- caller Kellan Stahl, never went away. Stahl, who threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns, fired a pass to Hollidaysburg’s Justin Wolfe, who took 46 yards to the house to help knot the game at 35-all.

Chestnut Ridge’s Matt Whysong, who had six catches for 150 yards and a touchdown, won offensive backs MVP for the North. He also ran for a 35-yard score to put the North up 28-27 with 12:47 left to play.

Central Cambria’s Hobbs Dill carried eight times for 61 yards and had a 24-yard touchdown.

“We finally got a chance to get it going in the second half, but just couldn’t get that one stop we needed to turn the tide,” said North coach Justin Wheeler, who led Bishop Guilfoyle to a Class 1A championship in 2021. “This was a heck of a football game. It’s what you want to see in an All-Star game.”

Notes: Windber’s Dylan Tomlinson was selected as the MVP for the South defensive backs. Somerset’s Ethan Hemminger was named the MVP for the North defensive backs.

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