PHILADELPHIA – The best of the best were up against each other at Lincoln Financial Field this Saturday, May 21st as the Public High School all-stars battled the Non-Public High school all-stars. The Public all-stars were looking for revenge as the Non-Public all-stars won last year’s Philadelphia Eagles City High School All Star-Classic by a score of 16-15.
The Public all-stars played the entire game without a kicker or punter, thus beginning the afternoon affair with an onside kick. Although the attempt failed, George Washington’s Claudy Mathieu striped Non-Public quarterback Anthony Reid, and Public recovered the ball at the opposing 20-yard line. Mathieu, the Public defensive MVP on the day, had more pivotal plays to contribute.
Starting quarterback Tyree Rucker followed with a scoring drive that featured a touchdown pass to George Washington running back English Peay. After a two-point conversion, the score was 8-0 to begin the game.
Both teams switched quarterbacks after every series, so when it was Non-Public quarterback John Loughery’s turn, he threw a touchdown strike to wide-out Jaelen Strong-Rankin. West Catholic’s Strong Rankin would be a constant deep threat throughout the day and won the offensive MVP honors for Non-Public after the game.
With the score at 8-7, Public all-star’s next quarterback, Tony Smith of George Washington, was picked by defensive back Brian Dones of Chestnut Hill academy (Dones would earn the defensive MVP honors for Non-Public). After Non-Public’s drive stalled, they utilized their kicker, Chestnut Hill Academy’s Christian Guinan, to make the score 10-8.
The first quarter would close with the same score, and an offensive battle ensued during the second quarter. Midway through the second, George Washington’s Mathieu recorded another tackle for a loss to force a Non-Public punt and continued to anchor his defense. Mathieu will play football at James Madison University next year, where he hopes to start. He is also a star volleyball player at George Washington.
Mathieu spoke about the defense he commanded all day. “I never really met these guys before, but in the weeks we’ve been working together we just got connected as a team. We all have love for each other, and put our bodies on the line for everyone else.”
Nevertheless, quarterback John Loughery began the first few plays of the ensuing drive for Non-Public with a jump ball to his favorite target, offensive standout WR Strong-Rankin. Strong-Rankin jumped between two defenders, hauled in the pass, and used his blazing speed to score his second touchdown. The Non-Public all-stars were up 17-8 and seemingly had a commanding lead in the second quarter.
Still, after a well-orchestrated wheel pass to Samuel Fels wide-out Jared Hines, Tony Smith faced a 4th down and two with 42 seconds remaining in the half. Smith responded with a touchdown pass to his George Washington offensive MVP of the game, Daquan Cooper.
Following the two point conversion, the Public all-stars and Non-Public all-stars were in a close contest at 17-16. After an offensive first half, the second half featured a much more defensive tone. The name of the game would be field position, and Public would eventually secure the momentum.
At the start of the third quarter, West Catholic’s Reid connected with Strong-Rankin again, which led to a successful Christian Guinan field goal for the Non-Public all-stars to make the game 20-16.
Momentum swung back and forth as the teams battled for field position, and Public’s fill-in punter Donovan Morris from George Washington pinned Non-Public at their 13-yard line with 6:06 left in the quarter. Non-Public shifted the field yet again however, but Public’s Rucker was able to advance the ball far enough to keep Non-Public honest.
With the fourth quarter under way and offenses struggling, Non-Public got the ball to West Catholic’s Quran Kent at Public’s 43 yard line. After pressure from Mathieu, Northeast linebacker Camile Max intercepted Anthony Reid’s pass and scored the go-ahead touchdown for the Public all-stars. After much struggle, the comeback was on, but far from secure.
After a missed two point conversion, the score stood at 22-20. Non-Public running back Brandon Hollomon marched down the field, with Penn Charter’s Loughery at the helm. But the issue for Non-Public was mistakes at the end, as wide-out turned cornerback Daquan Cooper picked off Loughery’s pass and raced into the end zone for a touchdown. With the score 28-20, the Public all-stars sat on the lead for the remainder of the game.
Cooper, who will play football at Lincoln Financial Field for Temple University next year, saw the game securing interception all the way and planned to undercut the receiver. Cooper spoke about the chance to represent George Washington and play with his fellow all-stars.
Cooper stated, “It means everything to me, to play with my teammates and meet new guys, and a couple guys at Washington that I’ve played with for four years straight. It was worth it.”
His quarterback, Tony Smith, settled down his team and led Public to a fine win, although Cooper took home the MVP award. Smith shared his thoughts and said, “Coming out, these were some great players to play with and we made the most out of 12 practices. I slowed down and relaxed. The key was to just have fun today, do what we do best, and win the game.”
In this close contest, the game was hosted by the Philadelphia Eagles, and featured defensive coordinator Juan Castillo as the honorary head coach for the Non-Public All Stars. The honorary head coach for the Public all-stars was special teams coach Bobby April. Even Andy Reid and Merrill Reese participated; Reid by speaking to both teams prior to Saturday’s game and Reese by covering the play by play, respectively.