SCHUYLKILL HAVEN - The South squad unleashed a potent running attack during the annual Schuylkill County North-South Football Classic.
The South racked up 296 yards rushing and limited the North to net minus 17 yards on the ground in rolling to a 44-15 victory at Rotary Field Saturday night.
The game is organized by the Schuylkill County Football Coaches Association and supported by the Pottsville Lions Club. Jim Thorpe National Bank is a sponsor of the contest.
Not only did the South squad outgain the North in the rushing department, it converted four of the North's five turnovers into touchdowns to turn the game into a rout.
"We got into a rhythm and built on it during the game," said South coach Mike Farr of Schuylkill Haven. "The Wing-T is tough. We kept it pretty basic, with about 5-6 plays, and we worked to execute those plays.
"Each kid has something he does well, so we tried to put them in good situations to make them feel comfortable."
Schuylkill Haven's Evan Fink picked up the tough yardage inside, rushing for 119 yards on 16 carries and a TD, but the South also made plenty of big plays, too.
Most Valuable Player Frank Gaffney of Blue Mountain alternated with Tri-Valley's Matt McGinley behind center and rushed six times for 59 yards and two TDs, narrowly missing a third when he returned an interception to the one-yard line.
Defensively, Pine Grove's Brent Wolfe returned a fumble 48 yards to paydirt and had an interception return for a TD called back on a penalty, although the South still cashed in.
The South took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards on nine plays for the TD, with Gaffney scoring on an 11-yard bootleg. Pine Grove's Zach Blouch kicked the first of five PATs to make it 7-0.
The South's next TD followed Wolfe's interception. Taking over on the North 43 following the holding penalty, Fink found the end zone on a one-yard blast seven plays later.
Gaffney capped a seven-play, 57 yard drive with a three-yard TD run, making it 21-0 South with 4:52 left in the first half.
Wolfe made it 28-0 when he scooped up a fumbled pass near midfield to raced 48 yards for the TD.
The North squad, coached by Mahanoy Area's Wally Hall, finally got on the board on the ensuing kickoff, when No. Schuylkill's Zach Hogan, the North MVP, took the kick the distance from 95 yards. Shenandoah Valley's Jim Zarcufsky booted the PAT.
The South still had time to squeeze in a 24 yard field goal by Blouch before the half expired with a 31-7 lead.
The South tacked on a pair of second half TDs, one when Pine Grove's Cale Hoover fell on a loose pigskin in the North end zone, and another on a one-yard McGinley plunge following Gaffney's pick-off with 5:51 left.
The North's final points came in the third quarter when North Schuylkill QB Tom Ferrari hit Marian wideout Joe Kloap with an 80 yard TD pass. Ferrari passed to Marian's Scott Nietz for the two-point conversion.
"I was just trying to create some space," said Kloap, who caught four passes for 121 yards and will continue his career at Lebanon Valley College. "It was a quick slant, and I was just trying to give Tom a hole to throw to. He made a great throw and I finished it off for the TD."
That was one of the few plays that clicked for the North.
"We had a lot of miscommunications, with receivers stopping patterns and me throwing deep balls," said North QB Corey Cinicola of Jim Thorpe, who like Kloap is headed to Lebanon Valley. Cinicola completed 11 of 23 passes for 107 yards but was picked off three times. "If we had been playing together for a month, we'd be fine."
"It was fine, even though we didn't win," said Panther Valley's Albright-bound Ryan Richards, who along with Panther teammate Casey Lawrence had six tackles for the North. "We had some good guys out there for us, and I'll never forget this."
GRID NOTES - Panther Valley WR Jake Dunn had a team-high six catches for 54 yards for the North ... the Panthers' Ryan Poeldnurk registered a sack ... representing THE TIMES NEWS area on the North squad were Thorpe's Cinicola, Carl St. Hill and Mike Carpenter; Marian's Kloap, Nietz and James O'Connor; PV's Lawrence, Dunn, Richards, Poeldnurk, Ryan Porambo, Jason Harrison, Greg Pecha and Andrew Tucker, and Tamaqua's Mike Gurcsik, Erik Krause and Eric James ... former Panther Valley standout Cazzie Kosciolek was the honorary captain for the North squad but missed the game due to commitments at Holy Cross, where he is an assistant coach. Kosciolek's brother Matt represented him ... the inaugural class of the Schuylkill County Football Coaches Hall of Fame was inducted at halftime. Local inductees included Angelo Konstas for Jim Thorpe, the late Hugh "Wink" Gallagher for Marian (represented by his grandson, Mark Coassolo), Trevor Lawrence for Panther Valley and Dick Jones for Tamaqua.