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MANHEIM, Pa. – Zach Zweizig had a lot on his mind Saturday night, but none of it had to do with postgame meal choice or preparations before enrolling at Lafayette College in the fall.

 

No, the Wilson-West Lawn senior had a lot to worry about, and it lie on the wristband strapped to his left arm, just above the wrist.

 

“We had to learn lots of offense in the last two weeks,” Zweizig said. “There’s probably 60 plays (on that wristband).”

 

For all of the offense the South all-star coaching staff from Garden Spot High School installed over the last couple of weeks, it was the defense that reigned supreme this night.

 

The South forced five North turnovers, including a critical goal-line-stand at its 1-yard line with 10:58 left in the game, to preserve a hard-fought 24-14 victory in the Manheim Touchdown Club’s 10th annual Tri-County All-Star Football Game from a hot and muggy Elden Rettew Stadium in Manheim. The victory is the South’s fifth in the last six years and evened the series at five wins for both sides after the North’s 14-7 victory in 2010 in a defensive struggle.

 

“The defense made the big plays for us all night long,” said South head coach Matt Zamperini (Garden Spot). “I told the guys if I had to give out a game ball tonight, it would have been for the defense.”

 

The South’s defense was answering the bell right from the onset, as the North stars strung together three first downs, including one via a 31-yard halfback pass from Michael Smith (Manheim Central) to Lucardy Jean-Francois (Cedar Crest). But on a 3rd-and-12 from the South 31, quarterback Chase Moyer (Manheim Central) saw his pass fall into the arms of Ethan Martin (Lampeter-Strasburg), and the South averted the North’s advance.

 

Fourteen plays and five first downs later, the South had itself a lead it would not relinquish. After dialing up three consective first downs on Zweizig runs of 18 and 14 yards and a Deron Thompson (Warwick) 12-yard reception, Zweizig hooked up with Teon Lee (Penn Manor) for a 30-yard pass-and-catch before calling his own number from two yards out. The 92-yard drive drained 5:41 off of the clock.

 

The South pushed its lead to 10-0 on its second possession following a Moyer fumble, as Chris Garraffa (Lampeter-Strasburg) connected on a 27-yard field goal.

 

Moyer’s night would only get worse – he was intercepted for the second time by the South’s Alex Dienner (Conestoga Valley) with 2:06 left in the first half and sacked for a two-yard loss on the final play of the second stanza. The North had a small march going with :40 left before the half, using receptions of nine and six yards by Tyler George (ELCO) and a Moyer 10-yard run to earn consecutive first downs, but, alas, nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.

 

“We had a little problem underthrowing some balls tonight,” said North head coach Jim Vieland (Ephrata). “That was something we didn’t see at all during practice.”

 

Zweizig helped push the South’s advantage to a seemingly insurmountable 17-0 when he hooked up with teammate Julian Carabello on a 35-yard scoring strike to cap a 7-play, 68-yard drive to open the second half.

 

“Carabello made a nice play,” Zweizig said. “I underthrew it a bit (but he made a nice adjustment).”

 

Down, but not out, the North began its surge. Behind a power running scheme rotating between backs Kevin Coleman (Manheim Township) and Julian Alicea (Hempfield), the North marched 40 yards in six plays (all rushes) and were aided by a South offsides penalty. Coleman (7 rush, 20 yards) crashed in from three yards out to break the goose egg and draw the North to within 10, at 17-7. The scoring drive was set up by a Brandon Artman (Manheim Central) 49-yard kickoff return.

 

And after Gavin Session (Ephrata) recovered a Zweizig fumble at the South 40 yard line with 3:46 left in the third quarter, the North appeared to be in business. Aided by two South penalties which each resulted in first downs, the North marched to the South 3 and faced a fourth-and-goal-to-go situation. Alicea’s sixth carry of the drive went left, got stretched wide, and as the Hempfield speedster cut back to the inside, he was stuffed at the 1-yard line. The South’s defense had stood tall.

 

“The goal-line stand was a crtitical moment,” Zamperini said.

 

“I thought we outplayed them in the second half,” Vieland said. “We wanted to get the passing out of the way (in the first half) so we could nickle-and-dime them in the second half.” (Game rules require teams to pass on 40 percent of total plays run).

 

Andy Breault (Elizabethtown) brought the North to within 17-14 when he found Tyler George (ELCO, 3 rec., 53 yds.) on a 34-yard scoring pass with 3:22 left in regulation. The scoring pass was one of only two completions for the Bears’ field general, but it was a big one, as the North was now just one defensive stand away from a potential lead.

 

It never happened.

 

On the South’s ensuing possession, Ben Meyers (Pequea Valley) found a streaking Demetrious Dixon (Penn Manor) on a 63-yard scoring pass and the South’s narrow lead was beefed back up to 10 points. Meyers was only 2-of-10 this night, but Dixon was on the receiving end of both connections for 86 yards. That big play came on a 3rd-and-23 situation.

 

“They ran a hitch and go and our guy bit on the post,” Vieland said. “It was 3rd-and-23…you don’t worry about the hitch there.

 

“I’m proud of how our guys played,” Vieland continued. “They (the South) had very highly touted backs and a lot of talent over there. Nobody probably gave us much of a chance and we were only down three to them.”

 

Zweizig stole the show offensively for the South, throwing for 98 yards and a score and running for a team-best 45 yards and a score on seven rushes. Backs Thompson (Warwick, 5 rush, 21 yards), Austin Hartman (Cocalico, 6 rush, 34 yards) and Markeith Williams (J.P. McCaskey, 9 rush, 12 yards) helped pace a South ground game which chewed up 129 yards on 30 carries. All told, the South amassed 336 yards of offense and 14 first downs.

 

The North was paced by Alicea’s 10 rushes for 54 yards and Moyer’s 51 rushing yards on six carries, part of an overall rushing attack which accounted for 133 yards on 30 carries. Four different North players attempted passes, with Moyer pacing the quartet on a 13-of-26 night for 85 yards, but included in that stat line were three interceptions. Breault finished 2-of-4 for 51 yards and the touchdown pass. The North finished with 301 yards of offense and 19 first downs, but also had five total turnovers (3 interceptions, 1 fumble, 1 on downs).

 

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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.

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