HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: North can't keep up with prolific South offense in Lantzy all-star game
JOHNSTOWN — Surprisingly, the South Squad didn’t need any more than a handful of practices to prepare to run its high-tempo no-huddle offense with fluidity Friday night at Johnstown’s Trojan Stadium.
That’s because the South had the necessary components to operate smoothly in a hurry-up offense, and it did it with amazing efficiency in Friday’s 44th annual Ken Lantzy Finest 40 All-Star Game.
The North, conversely, struggled from the get-go to defend the South’s spread-style offense, a style atypical of Districts 5 and 6 and one that’s mainly predicated on perimeter passing.
The South chewed up 629 total yards, including 402 through the air, punted just once on a night in which the North couldn’t find much offensive rhythm and avenged a disappointing loss last year with a 48-18 win.
The North thumped the South, 41-7, in last year’s game.
South head coach Bob Landis (Somerset) talked about why the personnel on his team helped his no-huddle offense run with relative ease.
“It wasn’t difficult to get them ready at all because that’s what we do,” said Landis. “At Somerset we run a spread (and) Richland runs a spread, so two of our quarterbacks were already well-versed. But Scott Fennell did a fantastic job this week (of) learning the offense. All three of the Q’s (quarterbacks) picked it up, and when the Q’s pick it up, it’s easy to get it to the receivers.”
Richland’s Matt Shaffer threw a pair of touchdown passes in the first quarter, the first of which Bishop McCort’s Tyler Rugg hauled in on a fade pass from 2 yards 3:16 into the game.
Shaffer hit Daniel Tomlinson on the two-point conversion to make the score 8-0.
Later in the first, Shaffer hit classmate Kyle Flick on a fly-route for a 45-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 with 5:52 left in the quarter.
“We couldn’t stop them. Let’s face it,” said North coach Greg Page (Homer-Center). “We had opportunities to keep the bleeding at a minimum and we didn’t do it, and that’s a credit to them.”
The South drove to the North’s 3-yard line on its following drive, only to fumble on a third-and-goal and lose possession. Homer-Center’s Mike Newhouse forced the fumble on Somerset’s Tanner Stull on a crunching hit at the 2-yard line.
The North capitalized on the fumble and marched 84 yards on 11 plays on its ensuing drive to score a touchdown and trim its deficit to eight points, 14-6. Bishop Carroll’s Tyler Janosik tossed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Kyler Diehl (Northern Bedford) on a first-and-goal to cap the drive.
But the South regained its footing and put together the last scoring drive of the first half by moving 54 yards on seven plays late in the second quarter. Shaffer finished the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run on a quarterback sneak with 2:35 to go in the first half to make it 20-6.
“It was difficult to keep up, and I got tired at times (because) I’m not in the best of shape right now,” said Northern Cambria’s Nolan Paronish, a defensive back for the North. “They had great wide receivers, and their quarterbacks threw excellent balls for them. It was just a difficult night for all of us.”
The North needed just one play to again make it a one-score game early in the second half.
On the first play of a North drive, quarterback Blake Over (Northern Bedford) threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Diehl. Diehl caught the pass roughly 20 yards from the line of scrimmage after making contact with defensive back Luke DiFrancesco (Bishop McCort) in midair. As DiFrancesco fell down, Diehl kept his footing, toed the sideline and outran the South’s last line of defense, scoring a touchdown to make the score 20-12 with 12:21 left in the third.
The South answered, however, and scored touchdowns on each of its next two possessions to pull away for good.
Shaffer first connected with Flick on a flag-route for a 23-yard touchdown with 8:18 left in the third quarter to extend the South’s lead to 28-12.
Stull then hit a wide open Flick on a skinny post to end a 10-play, 62-yard drive and put the South ahead 34-12.
Penns Manor classmates and North defenders Stephen Dumm (linebacker) and Luke Ruddock (tackle) agreed that the South’s offense posed challenges they never encountered in high school.
“It was a whole new level,” said Dumm, who will attend Triangle Tech in the fall. “Everybody was just a step faster, and everyone was just a little bit bigger. It was a whole new game, but it was fun.”
“I’m definitely nowhere near being in football shape, so I was tired,” Ruddock added with a laugh. “It’s definitely a different tempo than I’m used to. We’re all smash-mouth, slow football down around home, and this is city ball. I was winded out there.”
South running back Tanner Solarczyk (Richland) scored on the ground on each of his team’s last two drives.
Solarczyk scored from 20 yards with 10:41 left in the fourth to make the score 42-12.
Less than four minutes later, Solarczyk scored from 25 yards with 7:10 to play to enforce the mercy rule and balloon the South’s lead to 48-12.
The North scored on the last play of the game, a 29-yard touchdown pass from Over to Kody Blevins.
Ligonier Valley’s Scott Fennell completed 7 of 10 passes for 195 yards in the first half for the South. Fennell, who also ran four times for 24 yards, suffered an injury late in the first half and didn’t return.
Aside from Fennell, North running back Joey Frontino (Northern Cambria) was the only other Heritage Conference player who touched the ball. Frontino ran four times for 13 yards.