SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT -- In a striking deviation from the outcomes of recent years, the 29th Annual District 4 North-South All-Star game was more a battle of attrition than a high-scoring shootout.
A year after the North and South combined for 49 points in the first half and a total of 83 points in the game, the teams managed just one touchdown in the first 24 minutes of play Friday night at Rodney K. Morgans Stadium.
“It was more of a defensive struggle,”said Southern Columbia's Jim Roth, who stepped in for Central Columbia's Scott Davis who missed the game due to family reasons. "Things went well. Some of the things that we were trying to do were challenging for the guys who have never run the Wing-T offense, but we had enough spread stuff in the playbook for the passing game that we were able to mix it up."
For the North all-stars, their best scoring opportunity in the opening half came on their first drive of the day.
Initially, the North's drive looked to have stalled at the South 25, but a gutsy call by North head coach Tom Dickinson of North Penn/Mansfield call on Montgomery's Brayden Strouse to bust up the middle on a fake punt.
North quarterback Coleman Good (Muncy) connected with high school teammate Dylan Wilt for a 34-yard pass play which put the ball on the South 14, but a holding penalty and a beautiful interception in the back of the end zone by Lewisburg's Coleman Witherite ended the drive.
"We had a lot of guys on the defensive side of the ball who were making plays all over the field,”Roth said. "Especially when we couldn't get in a rhythm offensively, our defense got a couple of big sacks and a couple of interceptions."
The South finally cracked a scoreless tie with 1:18 left in the first half when Milton quarterback Phillip Davis hit Selinsgrove wide receiver Ben Swineford streaking across the endzone for an 18-yard scoring strike. Central Columbia kicker Brendan Gregory split the uprights to make it 7-0 for the South, a score that stood as the teams headed for the locker room at halftime.
Davis had himself quite a night in his final high school football game as he captured overall MVP after going 8-for-15 for 125 yards passing and a touchdown to go along with a decisive rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"It feels surreal, to be able to do this in my final high school game, it's just an amazing feeling,”Davis said.
The North finally got on the board at 9:58 of the final quarter when, on the first play following a 30-minute lightning delay, Strouse lobbed a perfect, 26-yard fade to North Penn/Mansfield wide receiver Garrett David to cut the score to 13-7.
Davis led the South's final scoring drive and plowed in from a yard out to make the score 19-7 with 3:44 left.
The North manufactured one final threat, but Selinsgrove linebacker and South defensive MVP Joe Kahn made a brilliant interception in the back of the end zone and returned the ball to midfield before being tackled.
After he popped up from the ground with the ball, the South sideline enveloped Kahn in celebration. The officials called the game with 1:20 remaining in regulation due to the oppressive heat and continued threat of more lightning.
"When your defense keeps stopping the other team and getting the ball back, that's huge,”Roth said. “They gave our offense some time to get going. We had some sacks, the two interceptions, a number of big plays. That certainly made the difference."