NAZARETH – Usually all star games are all about the passing game. But the more balanced offense won out in Thursday's Lehigh Valley McDonald's All Star Classic.
The Gold team (Northampton Country, Phillipsburg and Palisades) was outgained overall, but it mixed the run and the pass efficiently in beating the Red team (Lehigh, Carbon, Monroe countries) 24-14.
Several area players were on the losing end, but were still happy for the opportunity to play in one last high school game.
"It was a lot of fun," said Northern Lehigh defensive back Jake Kern, who returned an interception for a touchdown in the game. "The whole week and a half of practice was a great experience, great opportunity.
"It's a great charity event. It was great to raise the money that we did and make new friends like we did playing the sport we love."
The Gold team, which benefited from six Red team turnovers, gained less than 100 yards on the ground and completed none of eight passes through the first two and a half quarters, but a pair of bombs to Kowan Scott (2 catches, 112 yards) helped turn around a 14-12 second quarter deficit.
The Gold completed just three passes in the game and threw three interceptions. But two of the completions went for touchdowns. It ran the ball 28 times for 96 yards.
The Red team moved the ball more efficiently, completing 19 of 45 passes. The team used eight different receivers who all had 10 yards or more and seven of them had at least two catches. But it only managed 19 rushing yards on 21 carries.
Michael Carmella (East Stroudsburg South) went 13 for 20 with three interceptions, while Chris Polony (Whitehall) completed 5 of 24 passes with two picks. Joe Williams (Emmaus) has four catches for 108 yards.
Pleasant Valley's Rich Irving had three receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown. Travis Labyack (Palmerton) had three catches for 10 yards.
The Gold team took a 6-0 lead with 2:14 left in the first quarter on a Adrian Bernard (Piux X) 8-yard run.
After trading interceptions, the Red team took the lead by capitalizing on a fumbled punt return. The turnover put the Red at the Gold 21-yard line. Polony hit Irving with a first down pass for the score and a 7-6 lead.
The teams traded interceptions again, but this time the Gold got the field position advantage. It took five plays from the 19-yard line before Chad Fenon (Northampton) plunged in from four yards out to give his team a 12-7 lead with 4:57 left in the first half.
The Red team took its only lead with Kern's interception. The defensive line got pressure on Gold quarterback Nathan Hood (3 for 8, 2 interceptions) and Kern got under the pass and took it 65 yards down the sideline to give his team a 14-12 lead with 5:25 left in the third quarter.
"It was a great feeling," Kern said. "I couldn't ask for anything more. It's something I can take away from this game and my high school career."
The Gold team answered with a three-play drive capped by a 47-yard Hood to Scott pass for a score and an 18-14 lead with 4:19 left in the third.
They connected again with 30 seconds left in the period on a 65-yard touchdown pass.
Other area all stars who played in the game were Cody Remaley (running back, Northern Lehigh, 2 carries, 5 yards), Rob Calhoun (cornerback, Pleasant Valley), Matt Gill (linebacker, Northern Lehigh), Jarred Harry (offensive lineman, Palmerton), Noah Tkach (offensive lineman, Lehighton), Tony Wargo (offensive lineman, Northwester), Rich Hargrove (offensive lineman, Pleasant Valley), Carl Sahlberg (offensive lineman, Northern Lehigh), Mike Buresh (defensive lineman, Northern Lehigh).
The players, most of which will be playing in college next fall, enjoyed getting together with players that have been rivals for the last four years and sometimes longer.
"It was a great time," said Sahlberg. "Making new friends, meeting different people, getting to play against different schools, it was just a blast."
"We're playing for a good cause," said Wargo. "We get to play one last high school game, it's just all great fun."