Last hurrah

WINGATE – Both the North and the South scored early and often in the 29th edition of the Lezzer Lumber All-Star Classic, but it was the North, representing District 9, that took command in the second half and walked away from Bald Eagle Area High School’s Alumni Field with a convincing 49-27 victory Friday night in Wingate.

Seven locals participated for District 6 in the game, including Mifflin County safety Jack Wagner, who made his presence felt early both on defense and special teams with three tackles in the opening minutes.

Despite Wagner’s efforts, the North opened up an early 7-0 lead when Central Mountain’s Von Walker, the North’s eventual offensive Most Valuable Player, scampered untouched into the endzone on a quarterback keeper just four minutes into the game.

Things got worse for the South before they got better.

After going three and out on offense, the South, playing as the visitors, had an errant snap on a punt sail out of the back of the endzone, resulting in a safety that increased the lead to 9-0.

Hollidaysburg defensive tackle Matt Barton got the South out of its early funk and amped up the crowd by scooping up a fumble near midfield and rumbling into the endzone for the South’s first score of the game.

After a field goal by the North, the all-star teams traded touchdowns before the South was able to retake the lead when Hollidaysburg’s Brian Urban connected with his former high school teammate Blake Davis on a 25-yard scoring strike to give the South its second and final lead at 21-19. Mifflin County running back Tim Beck helped set up the score with a drive-extending eight yard rush.

Despite not making a gamebreaking play, Beck was a consistent part of the South’s offense as he hauled in three receptions for 20 yards and was targeted on a number of other occasions.

“We had a lot of plans to do a lot of jet sweeps and passes to the outside because we thought we could beat them with our speed to the edges,” the former Husky said. “It didn’t seem to work out, but that’s how it goes.”

Despite the lead, the North was able to quickly bounce back and punch in a touchdown late in the half when Damon Braniff ran it in from 17 yards out. A successful two-point conversion made it a 27-21 North advantage at halftime.

The second half followed a different path than the first as Walker simply took the game over for the North. His 50-yard bomb to Jared Baummer from DuBois put the North ahead by two scores after another two-point conversion. On the North’s next possession and the first play of the fourth quarter he hooked up with Garrett Brown, also from Dubois, on a 45-yard strike that effectively ended the South’s chances.

The locals didn’t produce any scoring plays in this one but their impact was still felt. Wagner finished the day with five total tackles and former Husky defensive back Aaron Michaels recovered a fumble late in the fourth.

Walker proved yet again that his MVP honors were well-deserved with an 8-yard touchdown run in the closing minutes that solidified the rout. He finished the day with four total touchdowns, two rushing and two passing.

Despite the outcome for their side, the locals agreed that the experience was a memorable one.

“It was cool to meet all the different kinds of guys from the teams you usually don’t like, we got to work together with them tonight,” said former Husky lineman Derek Yoder, who played the entire all-star contest at right offensive tackle and will be headed to Millersville University in the fall to play football. “It was good to get out there again before I go to college for football.”

Mount Union’s Jamal Smith shared Yoder’s sentiments. “It felt good to actually play other players and to get out and do something different,” he said. “It felt good to get out on the field a final time before we’re done playing football for good.”

“It was an incredible experience, great group of kids, we had a lot of fun, we loved every minute,” Wagner said. “The practices were a little hard, but it’s what it takes. It was awesome.”

Mount Union’s Cory Kylor and Kord Aurand also competed, with Kylor putting in time at inside linebacker and Aurand filling in a cornerback.