North Lancaster-Lebanon League All Stars Reign Supreme For Third Straight Year
MANHEIM – When people typically think of Memorial Day Weekend, chances are they generally associate the much-anticipated long weekend with a sense of optimism and forward-thinking rather than looking back out the rearview mirror. Fair enough, considering this weekend has long been recognized as the unofficial start of the summer. So forgive Lancaster-Lebanon League football fans if this holiday weekend in particular gives them an added pause as they take a step back to reflect on a special year that was.
And why not?
Typically regarded as one of the strongest scholastic leagues on the Eastern side of the commonwealth, or within the massive footprint of District 3 to say the very least, autumn 2017 was especially kind to those who put on the helmets and headsets across the L-L landscape.
Consider this, in the second year of the PIAA’s newly implemented six classification system, a remarkable 8 L-L squadrons made it to on the postseason with Manheim Central and Manheim Township being the star pupils of the class with both the Barons and Blue Streaks advancing all the way to the District 3-5A and 6A finals respectively as both would be able to return home to Lancaster County with gold trophies in their possession following last Thanksgiving Weekend.
From there, the 17-time District champs in Central and first-time winners in Township traveled westward to Altoona’s Mansion Park as both already found themselves in the Final Four of state competition in Pennsylvania’s two largest classifications by virtue of their exploits in Hershey the week before.
And although both would eventually fall short of the ultimate prize, neither would have anything to hang their heads about.
For the Barons, a late-game field goal by the Gateway Gators with a mere 10 seconds left on the clock proved to be the difference as the WPIAL champions moved on to the state’s final round by claiming the 31-28 decision over Manheim Central.
The very next day, Manheim Township took to the same field hopeful that they would be able to find the magic touch against nationally-recognized Pine Richland. A Rams squad which by the way just so happened to open up the season with a 41-0 pasting of Ohio powerhouse Warren in front of a nationally televised ESPN audience.
Yet even though the Rams would prove to be the victor on that early December afternoon, the mighty-Streaks certainly gave Pine Richland all they could handle, handing the eventual state champs the toughest test of their season’s unblemished entirety, 28-7.
And although many may have thought that the L-L football season ended on that cold day in Altoona, the fact of the matter was that the season would continue on into the new calendar year as it always has for nearly the last two decades with the 17th annual playing of the Tri-County All Star put on by the Manheim Touchdown Club which was contested Saturday night at Manheim Central in conditions that likely made its participants feel like they were back at the beginning of their senior seasons in minicamp rather than their final scholastic game with temperatures hovering around the 90 degree mark with a good dose of sweltering humidity piped in just for good measure.
Once the contest did get underway with all the fanfare finally put to the side, the North L-L All Stars received the opening kickoff and would begin their first possession with the ball at their own 20 yard line.
It would quickly turn out to be a very brief series however as an errant pass on the first play from scrimmage found its way into the waiting hands of Cocalico’s Owen Zimmerman who darted with his newfound possession before being drug down at the North 20 yard line.
And although the South squad was faced with some degree of adversity in the form of a 3rd & 15 on their opening possession, Garden Spot’s Cam Roth who was at the controls for the South, took off on a quarterback keeper down to the North 10 yard line, setting up a fresh set of downs for the Southerners who were now on the verge of kicking the door in early on.
The door would finally be knocked off its hinges shortly thereafter as an 8 yard pitch and catch from Roth to Conestoga Valley’s Jose Barbon saw the South draw first blood, as those donning the red uniforms on this night went in front 7-0 with 9:18 left to go in the first quarter.
It wouldn’t take long for the North side to offer a rebuttal however. In fact, it took all of 2:18 to do so.
Aided by two big plays throughout the possession which saw Hempfield quarterback Mark Himmelsbach hook up with fellow departing Black Knight, David Martin-Robinson, Himmelsbach was still able to maintain his laser-like precision through the air as he found hometown hero Jake Novak of Manheim Central streaking across the middle for the 30 yard touchdown strike to get the North within a point at 7-6 as the PAT was ultimately blocked by Cocalico’s Brandon Brubaker with still 7:00 left to tick off in the first frame.
From there however, the North side took off and never looked back in the rearview mirror.
Although their next series would start 96 yards away from paydirt thanks to the magnificent punting efforts by Lampeter-Strasburg’s Peyton Denlinger all night long, the boys in blue proved that distance was not a factor for them as an eventual 80 yard pass from Northern Lebanon’s Michigan Daub to Elizabethtown’s Anthony Funk along the South sideline saw the North take their first lead of the night at 13-7 as final 3:15 melted off the first quarter clock.
Ironically, for as much damage as the North was starting to inflict on their counterparts by way of their now sizzling offense, their defensive troops were not about to play second fiddle on this All Star night. And fittingly, it was a Manheim Central Baron playing the final game on his home field who would display that for all to see.
With the South beginning what looked to be a promising drive near the midfield stripe, their dreams of perhaps retaking the lead were quickly squashed as Central’s Tyler Simon read his keys defensively and raced 56 yards to the house with the interception for the Pick 6 to make it now 20 unanswered points from the Northerners who found themselves in possession of the 20-7 advantage with 11:28 to go before half.
But they were not done there.
No, in fact it didn’t long for the takeaway bug to quickly become contagious for the North All Stars as yet anotherinterception, this one collected by Northern Lebanon’s Christian Trader on the ensuing South drive, set the South side up with even more marvelous field position, now setting up shop around their opponent’s 30 yard line.
Although they would be pushed back somewhat following the Trader interception, the North offense remained operating in first gear as Mark Himmelsbach found Manheim Township’s Xavier Roman racing along the sideline for a gorgeous fingertip grab all the way down to the South’s 6 yard line.
From there, the dynamic Hempfield duo which caused plenty of headaches in Section 1 was on full display for all of the Lancaster-Lebanon League to see as a 6 yard Himmelsbach TD toss to classmate David Martin-Robinson made it a 20 point North bulge on the scoreboard at 27-7 with 8:02 left in the first half.
Needing to score with the game now flirting dangerously with the prospect of becoming out of reach for the South All Stars, the Southern troops began methodically moving their way down the field under the direction of Pequea Valley quarterback Jordan Lapp who was now piloting the offense.
With Lapp at the controls, the South’s air attack received a jolt of momentum as evidenced by a toss from Lapp to Garden Spot’s Jacob Arndt deep inside North territory with the South now on the verge of collecting a key late half touchdown to make things interesting heading into the game’s final 24 minutes.
And sure enough, the South would receive their badly-needed score as Lapp found Jose Barbon from 4 yards out as Barbon’s second TD reception of the first half trimmed the North’s lead to 27-14 as the two teams headed into their dressing roomsfollowing the final 3:12 runoff.
Although the North was set to kick off to their counterparts to begin the second half of play, trickery was afoot as a well-timed and perfectly executed North onsides kick bounded into the arms of E-Town’s Cade Robinson with Southern the North suddenly taking over looking to build upon their lead.
That certainly seemed to be imminent shortly thereafter on the drive as a Lebanon County hook up between Northern Lebanon’s Michigan Daub and Lebanon High’s Jeremiah Beckley across the middle which put the North All Stars on the precipice of scoring once again, now setting up shop at the South’s 2 yard line.
Yet even though the North would be pushed back 5 yards following an illegal procedure penalty, it did not seem to make a bit of difference as Daub found his trusty Northern Lebanon target, teammate Christian Trader, for the 7 yard pitch and catch as the successful Viking tandem helped push the North lead up to 34-14 with 10:29 still left to play in the third quarter.
Needless to say, it was paramount that the South find an answer. And fast.
Luckily for those pulling for the South squad, they were able to do exactly that on their next turn with the football. And although it certainly wasn’t easy as evidenced by a 4th & 6 from the North 36 yard line on their ensuing drive, the series remained alive on said play thanks to a 19 yard strike from Cam Roth to Lampeter-Strasburg’s Cam Niemeyer which kept the South side in business.
From there, the South was able to put some points on the board as a 3 yard plunge by Cocalico’s Brandon Brubaker,affectionately referred to as the “Brudozer,” made it now a two touchdown deficit at 34-20 with 6:42 left to go in the third.
But unfortunately for the South, the North side was not exactly in a hospitable mood.
Faced with yet another dose of arduous field position following a perfectly placed Peyton Denlinger punt which pinned the North back at their own 1 yard line, Michigan Daub and his offensive mates remained unphased by the conditions set forth in front of them as an 85 yard touchdown strike early on in the drive to David Martin-Robinson saw the North lead grow back to 41-20 with 2:06 to play in the third.
Never more was on that display than with McCaskey’s Ray Godwin refusing to go down from 6 yards out as the Red Tornado bolt of lightning helped put the South back within shouting distance with the score now 41-27 with 10:43 left in the contest.
Yet even though the South would once again regain possession following a successful defensive stand against the North’s offensive troops, any shred of momentum was quickly washed away as ill-timed fumble was recovered by Lancaster Catholic’s Peyton Snopek, setting the North squad with you guessed it, great field position.
And sure enough, just as they had all game long, the North was able to capitalize on this opportunity as well with a 30 yard TD scamper authored by quarterback Mark Himmelsbach which put the finishing touches on the scoring for the evening, but not before a successful 2 point conversion play between two Manheim Central Barons as a Jake Novak toss out to teammate Garrett Fittery capped things off with the neon lights now shining 49-27 in the North’s favor with 6:30 left to go.
While the 2018 version of the Tri County All Star Game will likely be remembered for the offensive display and weaponry put on display by the North squadron, their defense was certainly up to par as well.
All game long, South quarterbacks had to think twice about throwing anywhere near the vicinity of North defenders who consistently showed a propensity for getting their hands on some interceptions. And sure enough right on cue, Cedar Crest’s Brandon Showers was able to rise up and snag a pick of his own to get in on the party with the game just past the midway point of the fourth quarter, as the Showers pick concluded yet another South drive.
While the game was now well out of reach for South with just a handful of minutes left to play, that certainly did not stop those in the red uniforms from giving it all they had one final time in a high school football game. And who better to define that thanthe effort put forth by Cocalico’s Owen Zimmerman.
In the waning moments of action, Zimmerman hauled in a pass along the South sideline from quarterback Jordan Lapp before quickly turning on the jets and taking off. The only thing that stopped him coincidently was having his helmet ripped off on a tackle attempt as the 70 plus yard pickup suddenly had the South knocking on the door one final time with now just seconds remaining in the final high school football game of the season.
Ultimately however, a final South score was not to be as a late-game defensive stand by the North L-L All Stars fittingly put a bow on this one with the North standing tall 49-27, officially closing the book on a remarkable Lancaster-Lebanon League football season. A season that is sure to make 2017 one of the most talked about these parts for years and years to come.
Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball
Share This Post: