Local Alumni Fare Well In North/South
The North Bears won in convincing fashion over the South Cardinals in what is supposed to be the state’s premier all-star game Saturday at Laidley Field in Charleston.
There was a lot of hype over who the favorite would be leading up to the game, but the North proved to be nothing short on talent and found itself victorious 22-0.
It didn’t take long for the Bears to jump ahead either. Even after winning the coin toss and deferring until the second half, the North defense shut down the South and forced them to a three-and-out series before giving their offense an opportunity at its own 49-yard line following the punt.
The offense was just as effective, marching down the field and scoring on a nine-play drive when Dominique Dixon from University scored on a five-yard run up the middle for a 6-0 lead after the PAT attempt was mishandled.
The North would take over once again, this time with a short field, after their defense forced the South to punt.
Taking over from the 39-yard line, Gallaher showed off his arm with a pass to Musselman’s Casey Cochran to put the Bears one yard away from the end zone.
This time another NCAC member would score as Preston County’s Tyler Milton plunged in from a yard out, pushing the score to 13-0 after the PAT.
Both offenses stalled for most of the second quarter. The only points scored would come from the leg of Fairmont Senior’s Jonathan Haun on a 39-yard field goal with 29 seconds to go in the half.
Because the North was up by double digits, a North-South game rule forced the Bears to kick off once again to start the half. The defense still held strong and gave the offense another chance to shine.
This time the North took over from their own 10 yard line, but the result looked all to familiar. This scoring drive, however, was a bit more colorful.
Faced with a third and five situation, the South was called for an offsides penalty, giving the Bears a fresh set of downs. On the following play, South Charleston’s Xavier Jones was flagged for a personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct; he was ejected from the game.
After the penalty yards were assessed, the North ended up on the South 41.
On the next play, Gallaher hooked up with Magnolia’s Jason Utt on a 33-yard pass. One play later, Gallaher would score after picking up a crucial block from Utt and then pummeling over the defender at the goal line.
“Any time you get to play with that caliber of a quarterback, you know you’re going to have a good game because he can put the ball anywhere he wants to,” said Utt on the 33-yard pass play before commenting on the run. “I knew Cameron was coming my way to the pylon. I just tried to push my guy as far out of bounds as I could. He got off me for a second but that didn’t stop Cameron. He went right through him.”
That would be the final score of the game as the North squad won this year’s edition of the North-South all-star game by a count of 22-0.
Utt led all players in receiving with five grabs for 67 yards.
The offensive line did a stellar job for the North as well, providing the running backs with alleys to run through and both quarterbacks ample time to find receivers downfield.
Two of the linemen, Tyler Consolidated’s Cullen Grover and Magnolia’s Tyler Hanna, played a majority of the time as they were starters. Both players were in during all three touchdown drives.
Strangely enough, the former rivals were named to the Class AA first team all-state list with Hanna on the offensive line and Grover on the defensive line. In this game however, Grover’s roll was changed.
At the beginning of the practice week, the team was short at center because of an injury. When asked if anyone had any experience snapping the ball, Grover spoke up and went from there. At the end of the week he was starting the game for the North at center without getting in one play during practice or the game on defense.
It wasn’t what most would expect, especially after last week’s performance in the BACF all-star game pressuring the quarterback before suffering an injury which he thought broke his hand.
“I thought it was a strange thing to do, but they did it and I made the most of what they asked of me,” said Grover of the position change.
What was even more surprising was taking on the task in a bigger all-star game.
“It’s kind of different level,” he added. “Last week the all-stars were from a specific area. This week it’s half the state. The talent level was higher and it was a faster game. It was intense.”
As with most all-star games, former rivals quickly find themselves having fun being on the same team. This game was no exception.
“You play against those guys for four years. You kind of grew up together through your career and you’re used to competing against them and then you’re with them,” said Grover on his experience of being on the same line as Hanna.
“It’s really an interesting experience, especially with rivals such as us and Magnolia. You’re used to hating their guts and getting all fired up to play them and giving it your hardest. You get to playing with them and you have to work with them and it’s not a bad experience at all. They’re great guys and it was fun to play with them.”
“He’s a real, real great offensive lineman,” added Hanna. “We became good friends despite the rivalry. We were always talking to each other. It was definitely nice to have someone nearby down here.”
Hanna went on to say that being selected to play in the all-star game was a humbling experience.
Utt was also happy that he didn’t have to worry about Grover being on the opposite end of the ball.
“I’m glad to be on the same team as him,” said Utt jokingly and slightly relieved. “After the season is over, the rivalries kind of slow down especially when you’re seniors and it’s your last few games on the football field.
He was also quick to mention the opportunity to play for the former Wheeling Park football coach and being selected to play in the game was a fortunate occasion. “To play for Coach Mark Nardone, any time you play for him it’s an honor,” said Utt. Just to come down here with the the players, it’s a great experience. We made friends for a lifetime. Every night we hung out and it’s a good time down here.”