HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Area players ready for Lantzy all-star game
JOHNSTOWN — It’s almost a given that an unforgettable week has unfolded for the 16 Heritage Conference football players competing in tonight’s 44th annual Ken Lantzy Finest 40 All-Star Game at Johnstown High School’s Trojan Stadium.
Sparking friendships with old rivals, dining for free at Johnstown’s finest restaurants and getting one last high school football experience are just a few of the perks that make the game so sweet.
But for the four Heritage Conference players competing on the South squad, a pleasant experience comes second only to avenging last year’s embarrassing 41-7 loss to the North.
Ligonier Valley’s Scott Fennell and Nick Boring, Saltsburg’s Steve Richards and United’s Seth McLendon will each suit up for the South.
The following Heritage Conference players will play for the North: Blairsville’s Luke Ratkus; Homer-Center’s Cody Miller, Mike Newhouse, Luke Monko and Shawn Steffee; Marion Center’s Jon Baker; Northern Cambria’s Nolan Paronish and Joey Frontino; Penns Manor’s John Stupic, Stephen Dumm and Luke Ruddock; and Purchase Line’s Gavin Ewing.
The Heritage Conference members on the South squad each sounded off on the importance of snatching the momentum back from the North.
“A win means everything,” said Fennell, who led the Rams to 16 victories in his two years as their starting quarterback. “I don’t like to lose at checkers, so we came out here and worked our butts off, and we better win. … Winning is the only reason you play the game.”
“We really just want to win,” Boring added.
“We’re putting in a lot of hard work and I think it’d be a great way to win as a team with all these guys that we’ve played against in previous games.”
Neither Richards nor McLendon had the privilege of playing on a playoff team last season. Still, they both echoed the win-or-go-home sentiments of Fennell and Boring.
“Winning’s everything,” said Richards. “It’s an all-star game and it’s supposed to be fun and a nice show, but we definitely want to win. We’re not going to come out here and practice and have these three-a-days just to go out there and get our butts kicked by the North. Everything we’re doing is aimed toward getting the win.”
“I really don’t like to lose, and I don’t think anyone on my team does either, so Friday night we’re going to win,” said McLendon, who transferred from Penn Cambria to United for his senior season. “That’s the one thing we all have in common. We all believe we’re going to beat them.”
Of the four Heritage Conference players competing for the South, only Fennell and Boring will continue their football careers in college.
Fennell, a two-time All-Gazette selection, will play defensive back for Juniata College, and Boring, an honorable mention on the 2012 All-Gazette team, will play guard for Frostburg State University.
A three-time All-Gazette selection, Richards will attend Penn State University’s main campus, where the three-sport standout will focus solely on academics. Richards will play middle linebacker for the South.
McLendon, who will play defensive tackle Friday, said he may choose to wrestle in college, but he hasn’t decided on a school. He also said he’s certain the Lantzy game will represent his last on a gridiron.
“It definitely means a lot,” said Richards, who rushed for a career-high 206 yards in his last high school game in November. “You’ve just got to cherish every moment you’re going to be on that field because this is probably going to be the last one I ever play in. I just want to go out and make the most of it.”
The South will have to make do without the most prolific single-season receiver in Ligonier Valley history, Alec Bloom, who opted to play in the Big 33 Football Classic on Saturday at Hershey Stadium.
Bloom, a 6-foot-7 tight end who has signed to play for the University of Connecticut in the fall, posted area-best marks in receptions and yards in just eight games with 45 and 830, respectively.
The two teams began practice on the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown’s campus Sunday evening before conducting three-a-day practices Monday and Tuesday. The practice week ended with two-a-day practices Wednesday and today.
The South’s last win was a 44-6 romp in 2012.