North All-Stars Light Up The Sky, Exert Dominance In 18th Annual Tri-County All-Star Game
Chances are that when most think of Memorial Day weekend, they often think of barbeques and a much-deserved three-day weekend which marks the unofficial kickoff of summer with plenty of versions of “Old Glory” hanging proudly all over town. To football fans in Lancaster and Lebanon Counties however, don’t fault them if they also associate the holiday with either the end or the beginning of the high school football season, depending on how you look at it of course. Either way, glancing out either the rearview mirror or forward-facing windshield provides one with plenty of lasting memories from one of the state’s premier scholastic football conferences.
Truth be told, most around these parts had figured beforehand that the 2017 football season would be hard to replicate given the fact that Lancaster-Lebanon League saw two of its combatants reach the state semifinal round in the state’s two largest classification systems in Manheim Central and Manheim Township competing in the 5A and 6A ranks respectively. Yet even with all that success that the L-L League was able to rightfully boast given the exploits from both the Barons and Blue Streaks in the autumn months of 2017, the overwhelming consensus was that the league would do anything but take a step back to the rest of the pack in the 2018 season as well. And to their credit, countless programs from around the conference more than held their own this most recent football season as plenty of postseason berths were spread around. And perhaps in the most fitting of ways possible, everything came to a head with a trip to the 5A state title game thanks to Manheim Central.
Now sure, while that bitterly cold December night did not go the way of the Barons as evidenced by the 36-31 in favor of Penn Hills from the illustrious WPIAL Conference in the western part of the commonwealth, the Barons are expected to return plenty of firepower come 2019 and fight for yet another postseason berth to help enrich one of the state’s greatest ongoing legacies.
But it’s not just them mind you.
No, plenty of other L-L League programs figure to be on the rise come this rapidly-approaching season which officially kicks off in just under 100 days, with a select few having enough weaponry in their arsenal to perhaps make good on a trip to Hersheypark Stadium for a spot in the state finals seven months from now.
So yeah, it understandable that much need not be said in regards to L-L football fans who were starving for just about anything to help tantalize the palette whether looking backward or forward. Well, fortunately for them, they finally received their first morsel of action on Friday night with the 18thplaying of the annual Tri-County All-Star Game contested at Manheim Central.
And while all-star games are typically known for their bevy of highlights, it became rather apparent right from the outset that nearly all of the fireworks would primarily reside on just one sideline this evening.
While the South side got the ball first with the sole intention of making a dramatic opening statement by moving the ball down the field in hopes of striking first, those plans immediately came to a crashing halt thanks to a thunderous sack administered by Manheim Central’s Landon Moyer on a key third down play on the South’s first series which squelched their early mojo and sent the punt team onto the field.
After receiving the ball in prime starting field position thanks to the Moyer sack and a subsequent short punt put forth by the South squad, the red-clad North set up shop near midfield eager to make good on their own plans of drawing first blood.
Spoiler alert: They would no issues in doing just that.
In all, it took just a handful of plays before the lethal Elizabethtown connection of quarterback Cole Patrick and receiver Dylan Sweger was put on display for all to witness as the Bears’ senior duo hooked up for the 49-yard game of pitch and catch to put the North side up 7-0 with 7:03 left to play in the first quarter.
From there, the hill only continued to get steeper and steeper to climb for the South.
While their ensuing offensive possession would not end in a sack just as their most previous drive had concluded, they would have much rather preferred that when compared to what happened next as the South’s second series was immediately cut short following a fumble recovery from Cedar Crest’s Nick Stout.
And when blessed with another golden opportunity now sitting right at their feet, the North seized control and promptly found paydirt yet again as a 1-yard TD plunge by Manheim Central hometown hero Tyler Flick put the North up by a commanding early two touchdown advantage at 14-0 with 4:13 still to play in the opening stanza.
On the South’s next offensive possession, there seemed to be signs of life that this could perhaps be their rebuttal as a 16-yard jaunt by Donegal’s Zion Gibbs around the right side provided the South with their first truly successful play of the young evening as the South now found themselves flirting with the midfield stripe.
But just when it seemed that the tide may have started to turn in their favor, the North then adjusted their sails accordingly.
Ironically, the South’s most-promising drive was then put to an abrupt end by one of the very few non-Lancaster-Lebanon League players playing in the contest, Palmyra’s Sean Carter, as the lockdown Cougar defensive back hailing from the vaunted Mid-Penn Conference played centerfield and snagged an easy interception, giving the ball back to his North offensive mates, albeit deep in their own territory.
All night long, E-Town’s 6’4 towering senior quarterback was found throwing darts all over the yard, most of which were to his fellow Bears. Ironically enough, Cole Patrick’s next touchdown would come courtesy of a member from E-Town receiving corps yet again with this time Alex Diahn having the honors as the diminutive yet fearless Bears’ wideout raced 48-yards to the house to put the North up 21-0 with now 1:59 left to go in the quarter.
And as the first quarter continued to wind down, it only proved to be more of the same, much to the South’s chagrin.
In fact, just as he had one series previous, Palmyra’s Sean Carter picked off yet another errant South pass with the North residing yet again within the shadows of their own goalposts following the turnover.
As far as the entirety of the evening was largely concerned, most of the paid patrons walked out of Manheim Central’s Elden Rettew Stadium around 9pm on Friday evening awestruck at the performance put forth by Cole Patrick who operated like a surgeon within the cozy confines of the pocket. And while that certainly was true, perhaps the most memorable play of the evening was authored by Lebanon’s Leighton Rivera, as the Cedars’ bruising all-purpose weapon plowed over would-be tacklers en route to a 35-yard scamper all the way down to the South’s 31-yard line as the first quarter clock eventually melted away into all zeroes.
Unfortunately for the South, the second quarter did nothing to plug up the leak that had already sprung aboard their ship in the opening period.
After another long pass from Patrick to Sweger which ushered the North troops all the way down to the South’s 2-yard line, Tyler Flick once again had the honors as the Barons’ brute of a tailback powered across the goal line, giving the North the 28-0 bulge with 10:58 to go in the first half.
From there, the North continued to push the pedal down to the floor as Cole Patrick then found Manheim Central’s Issac Perron all by his lonesome in the South secondary as the departing Baron wideout scored his final touchdown on his home field, giving the North the jaw-dropping 35-0 cushion with now 7:39 showing on the first half clock.
Fortunately for the South squadron, the winds of change then began to blow in their favor.
Ignited by a deep pass from Wilson quarterback Anthony Futrick to Warwick’s Hilton Michael on their ensuing offensive possession which propelled them down to within a whisker of their opponents’ goal line, the South was finally able to crack their goose egg on the scoreboard once and for all as a 1-yard TD run from Cocalico’s Garrett Longenecker trimmed the North’s lead down to 35-7 which is where things remained after the final 6:31 then ticked away which sent the teams into their respective dressing rooms at the intermission.
New half, same ole North.
After a solid kickoff return from Manheim Central’s Will Rivers which raised the curtain on the second half of action, the North continued to pick up right where they had left off in the first half as Cole Patrick hooked up with Hempfield’s Darien Ressler as the 35-yard Bear to Black Knight touchdown connection made it a 42-7 affair following the seemingly automatic PAT booted through the pipes by Manheim Township’s Jack Rodenberger with just 1:03 having ticked off the third quarter clock.
But that wasn’t the end of it just yet for the South.
On their opening series of the second half following the ultra-quick Patrick to Ressler TD jab, the South only continued to find themselves looking upward at their Northern-based competition as a diving interception snared by Northern Lebanon’s Eyan Margut gave the ball back to the North at the South 34-yard line.
From there, Cole Patrick only continued to show off his poise and moxie by firing a strike across the middle on a 3rd& 8 into the waiting hands of Manheim Township’s Hilton Ridley who fearlessly went across the middle to snag the 21-yard TD reception, making it a 49-7 North lead with 6:33 left in the third.
Yet even despite the fact that there was still an entire quarter and change left to go in the ballgame, the Patrick to Ridley touchdown effectively turned out the lights on this year’s edition of the Tri-County All-Star Game, as the North side coached by Annville-Cleona’s Matt Gingrich began their holiday weekend with an extra pep in their step following their 49-7 triumph over their southern counterparts as Cole Patrick and Garrett Longenecker walked away with team MVP honors for their respective sides at the conclusion of the contest.
And while the Tri-County All-Star Game is always a welcomed tease for this football-crazed portion of the Keystone State, just remember that it all gets underway a mere 89 days from now. For real.
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