SCHUYLKILL HAVEN - During the regular season, Anthracite Football League rivalries fuel players to play their best against their opponents.
On Wednesday evening, in an unusual Fall season classic, the Schuylkill County Football Coaches Association turned those rivals into teammates and gave them a chance to showcase their talents collectively during the Senior All-Star Classic, held at Schuylkill Haven's Rotary Field.
"It was a great experience," said Panther Valley's lineman/defensive end Anthony Staivecki. "You beat up on those guys all season long and then you have the chance to come together here and become one team.
"It was a lot of fun. I got to know a lot of guys through this experience. It was just an overall fun, good time."
Seniors from Jim Thorpe, Marian, Panther Valley and Tamaqua, joined players from Mahanoy, Shenandoah Valley, and North Schuylkill to make up the North Squad, which was under the tutelage of first-year Panther Valley head coach Lon Hazlet, to defend last year's win over the South Squad, which included players from Blue Mountain, Williams Valley, Nativity, Minersville, Pine Grove, and Pottsville.
But after the plays had been made and the time on the clock had run out, it was the South which stood victorious, 17-7.
Minersville's Cole Weachock provided the fuel that pushed the South ahead of the North in the final quarter and secured the team's 11th win since the classic began in 1988. Weachock was later named the South Squad's recipient of the Terry Case MVP Trophy for his performance of 70 yards rushing, nine yards passing and one defensive interception.
There were no real tears shed after the game, but there were plenty of handshakes exchanged between teammates and coaches.
"A game like this isn't about winning or losing," said Hazlet, who was joined by his assistant coaches to lead the North Squad. "It's just about these kids having an opportunity to make some new friends and get to play the game they so love one more time.
"We really enjoyed the time we got to spend with them and they went out and played hard the entire game. In the end, Weachock took over a little bit, like he has done a lot this past season. I was real proud of the kids. They played the hearts out all night."
Right before the half, North Schuylkill's Ryan Henning hit Shenandoah Valley's Billy Moyer to give North a 7-3 lead. The tide changed in the second half and the South, led by Weachock, pulled away with two quick scores.
After a scoreless third quarter, Weachock led a drive that resulted with the South taking a three-point lead with only one-minute and 11-seconds left in the game. The touchdown run came after Weachock drove his team 66 yards down the field, handling eight of the nine plays and recording 58 of the 66 yards.
Weachock soon extended his team's lead to 10 in a matter of six seconds, after he returned an interception for 47 yards for a defensive touchdown.
While the North had plenty of opportunities secure its 15th all-star classic victory, the team fell short on plays, but made lasting memories for its players.
Tamaqua running back/defensive back Jared Muffley, who finished with two carries and 13 yards rushing, said this game was an opportunity of a lifetime.
"You can't win every time," said Muffley. "There's nothing we can do about this loss. But, I will take away the thought of playing with these kids that I never got to play competitively with rather been playing against my whole high school career.
"I have been playing against the same bunch of kids and I finally got to play on the same team with them tonight."
Marian's Paul Martin, who led the North with 12 carries for 54 yards, echoed Muffley's and Staivecki's thoughts.
"I just enjoyed the whole thing about this game," Martin said. "Everyone that was here and everything about it it was just a great experience and I'll never forget it."
Shenandoah Valley's Billy Moyer was voted the North's Terry Case MVP Trophy.