South captures SCFCA All-Star game
SCHUYLKILL HAVEN - Family, friends and football.
The spirit of Thanksgiving - and the Schuylkill County Football Coaches Association Senior All Star game - was alive and well on Wednesday night.
The 37th annual contest between the North and South All Stars gave everyone plenty to be thankful for at Schuylkill Haven’s Rotary Field the night before Thanksgiving.
In the end, it was the South team rallying for a 35-20 victory over the North - which featured players from Jim Thorpe, Lehighton, Marian, Panther Valley and Tamaqua.
More than the outcome, the opportunity for many of the players to take the field together one final time was one they were grateful for.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said Tamaqua’s Michael Styka. “I used to go to Mahanoy City as a kid, and I played there. So I got the chance to play with a couple of my friends back there, and that was just a great feeling, and seeing a bunch of other people I know and playing with them.”
Styka was honored with the Lineman of the Game award for the North squad.
“I never expected this,” Styka said with a smile. “I thought there were better linemen out there, but it was a great honor.”
The North went up 20-14 after Ben Dempster’s 26-yard TD pass to Shenandoah teammate Nick Ryan with 2:15 left in the third quarter.
But it would be the North’s last advantage, as the South scored the final 21 points in the contest – all in the fourth quarter.
It started with a 22-yard touchdown run by Minersville’s Luke Stevenosky and an extra point by Miners’ teammate Carson Boyle to give the South its first lead of the night at 21-20 with 10:34 left in the fourth quarter.
The South forced a three-and-out on the North’s next drive, and Parrish McFarland scored his third touchdown of the night on the ensuing possession to push the advantage to 28-20 with 6:08 to play.
The North recovered a fumble on the punt return on the next drive, and moved the ball to the South 43-yard line, but came up empty on a pass play on fourth-and-10 with 2:01 to play.
Three plays later, Blue Mountain’s Payton Fasnacht punctuated a dominant fourth quarter for the South with a 49-yard touchdown run with 1:17 to play to seal the victory.
“It was great. We fell short, but I had fun and that’s all you can really do,” said Marian’s Jesse Rodino, who recovered a fumble in the first quarter. “You might as well go out with a bang. Win or lose, as long as you had fun and put your heart into it, that’s all you can do.”
After a scoreless first quarter, the North struck on its third drive of the game when North Schuylkill teammates Trevor Minalda hit Collin McGee for a 41-yard TD with 11:04 left in the second quarter.
The game brought some teammates together – and created new ones.
“Being able to be part of a team with a bunch of the kids that I went against, and knowing that during the game against them you’re not really friends with them,” said Lehighton’s Wyatt Sherer. “But having them on the same team, they’re pretty cool.”
The South answered when McFarland scored his first touchdown of the game on a 13-yard run to bring the score to 7-6 with 5:18 left in the first half.
It didn’t take long for the North to respond, needing just six plays to go 83 yards, with Marian’s Bruce Hopeck hitting Ryan (four catches, 69 yards, two TDs) for a 26-yard touchdown. The score was setup by a 42-yard pass from Hopeck to McGee, who had three catches for 130 yards in the first half.
The South put together a methodical drive to open the second half, one that consumed half the third quarter and ended with McFarland scoring from 11 yards out and Pine Grove’s Lane Lehman adding the two-point conversion to tie it at 14-14 with 5:59 on the clock.
Improvement and growth on and off the field is something each player was able to reflect on.
“I would say I’ve definitely gotten better the last two years then when I was a freshman,” said Panther Valley’s Brad Jones. “The coaching staff here (led by Mark Lavine) that we have now, they’re great people. They understand the game, they love the kids, and we’re all about family there. So I’m very excited to see what they do in the future.”
Leading by example is why many of the players were on the field Wednesday night, setting a standard for the next generation of student-athletes to follow.
“For me, football is just about having everyone around me, like a family,” said Jim Thorpe’s Benjamin Goldberg. “It’s just a really good feeling, just being able to celebrate everything together.”
... McFarland (South) and McGee (North) were honored as the game’s MVPs. McFarland finished with 16 carries for 89 yards and three scores, while McGee had four grabs for 140 yards and a TD. In addition to Styka, Blue Mountain’s Austyn Fields was selected as the Lineman of the Game for the South team.
FOOTBALL IS FAMILY
... Marian’s Stan Dakosty announced his retirement as the program’s head coach after 44 years earlier on Wednesday. Dakosty, who led the Colts to the District 11 Class 1A title game this season, was more than a coach to his players, especially Rodino. “He played a big part in my life,” said Rodino. “That man has done everything for me. I gave it my all every single game, and that’s all he asked for.”