NAZARETH In a tie game defined by its defense, two Northwestern defensive players made their marks on the 40th annual McDonald's Lehigh Valley All-Star Football Classic on Thursday night.
Garrett Lerner and Nick Boyd played a part in three of the four turnovers forced by the Red team in the 7-7 tie with the Gold team at Nazareth Area High School's Andrew Leh Stadium.
"That was pretty sweet for all of us Northwestern kids to have those turnovers because we do pride ourselves on defense and hitting hard at Northwestern," Boyd said.
Lerner recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass in the first half and Boyd recovered a fumble on a punt return that set up the Red squad's game-tying touchdown drive in the third quarter.
The two Tigers made big contributions on a defense that allowed only 134 total yards and seven first downs on the night.
"We had a lot of good backers and our secondary was really good," Lerner said. "The other team had a lot of size on us but we had a lot of skill position players and I think the speed kind of made up for the size difference."
Following a scoreless first half, the Gold team used a 40-yard interception return by Saucon Valley's Terrell Drayton to set up the 1-yard touchdown run by Palisades' Adam Hardy to make the score 7-0 with 9:03 left in the third quarter.
Then on the Red team's ensuing possession, an apparent three-and-out turned into a golden opportunity when Boyd jumped on Drayton's fumbled punt return at the Gold 26.
Four plays later, Emmaus quarterback Brady Knerr hit Parkland's Kellan McCants for the equalizing 15-yard touchdown strike.
"Something that you really never see, an Emmaus kid throwing to a Parkland kid on offense," Knerr said. "But in the locker room at halftime, the quarterbacks were told to look backside on a certain play and I found him and he came up with a huge play."
The Red squad, which was comprised of Lehigh, Carbon and Monroe County teams, used a 15-play drive late in the fourth quarter to march down to the Gold 15.
But the 32-yard game-winning field goal attempt by Pocono Mountain East's Tyler Sickler sailed wide left and the game ended in a tie.
Lerner was one of the players disappointed in the final outcome.
"Nobody wants to go through practice all week and end up tying an all-star game," the future Widener University player said. "For some of these guys, it's their last game and they were just hoping to get one more win to end their career."
East Stroudsburg South quarterback Robbie Moyer racked up 171 total yards for the Red team, including 130 yards on 10 completions.
For the Gold squad, made up of Northampton County teams plus Phillipsburg and Palisades, James Stanell of Palisades rushed for 44 yards on 10 carries.
Anthony Bumbulsky of Pleasant Valley and Josh Grohotolski of Palmerton each recorded a reception for the Red team.
Palmerton's Joe Weber, Pleasant Valley's Cale Craig, Northern Lehigh's Nick Hartman, Brandon Mohrey, Christian Freudenberger and Northwestern's Trevor German, Mike Oswald and Kevin Oxley also played for the Red squad.
Northwestern cheerleaders Jackie Wear and Brittany Kittle also participated in the event that raised money to support Ronald McDonald House Charities.
"It was so much fun. It was definitely a lot more fun knowing it was for a good cause," Knerr said. "Coming out here, meeting guys that you played against and playing with them. The whole week was a lot of fun."