State College safety Aziz Salamy raced through the heart of the field, crossing the 50-yard line into South territory. The Little Lion was finally brought down, but bounced back up from the turf right away, gliding toward his team’s sideline with arms spread wide like an airplane.
Salamy’s celebration was justified. He grabbed his first-ever interception — and it led to the North team’s game-winning score in the third quarter.
Interceptions by Salamy and Bellefonte safety Gavin Danneker proved vital in the North’s 17-7 win over the South team at the 33rd Annual Lezzer Lumber Game on Friday night at Mansion Park.
“I thought, hey, this is my chance,” said Salamy, wearing a wide smile as he awaited the postgame trophy ceremony with teammates. “I knew it was at a critical point in the game, and I took it.”
State College teammate Peyton Edwards was surprised Salamy didn’t take it all the way for six. From along the defensive line, Edwards had a perfect view of South quarterback Jarrett Cavalet.
“I saw it leave the quarterback’s arm and head right for Aziz,” the pass rusher said.
Salamy capitalized, hauling it in and sprinting 18 yards to the South 43-yard line. Several plays later, DuBois running back Braden Paulenellie punched in a 1-yard touchdown run to give the North a 14-7 advantage.
“I was just so happy,” Salamy said. “It was a special moment.”
But before the Little Lion made his highlight, Bellefonte’s Danneker had one himself.
After picking off Cavalet in a 0-0 game in the second quarter, Danneker emerged from a heap of congratulatory teammates with two hands raised, a smile beaming from underneath his Red Raider helmet.
“I was like, ‘Oh my god, I got it,’” the Bellefonte star said. “I was fired up. I was ready to go.”
So were his teammates. A few plays later, State College quarterback Tyler Snyder connected on a 27-yard heave, and Paulenellie barreled ahead for his first score.
North led 7-0 — and the team with 16 Centre County players hung on thanks to Salamy’s pick and another play by Danneker.
After North went up 17-7 on a 26-yard field goal with a couple minutes to go in regulation, Danneker iced it. On the ensuing kickoff, a North teammate jarred the ball loose, and the Bellefonte ballhawk jumped on it.
He couldn’t believe it.
“There was a fight for it, but I look up and my teammates are yelling, ‘We got it, we got it,’” Danneker recalled. “It was the best moment of my life.”
Peyton Edwards was the North’s defensive player of the game — and with good reason.
The future Juniata College defensive lineman recorded three sacks, terrorizing the South backfield all night.
“It was my last Friday night light game, and I wanted to go out there, tear it up and do my thing,” Edwards said. “Just have some fun.”
Future Nittany Lion shines
Central Mountain two-way star and Penn State walk-on Justin Neff put his versatility on display.
Neff, who started at H-back but will play safety for the Nittany Lions, tallied 58 all-purpose yards — 41 rushing and 17 receiving.
Neff was pleased with his performance, and he can’t wait to continue his career in Happy Valley.
“I just hope to bring good safety coverage and kick returns to Penn State,” Neff said. “Just show my athleticism.”
What could’ve been
Instead of falling behind early, the South squad had a chance to strike first.
On the team’s first offensive series, Cavalet kept a read-option and bolted down the soggy sideline. The Hollidaysburg signal-caller legged out a 65-yard touchdown run, bringing the damp South fans to life — but the electrifying play was negated due to a block in the back.
On the next play, a bad snap turned into a 23-yard loss — with Bellefonte’s Jaiden Boone being credited with the sack. Edwards followed up with a seven-yard sack of his own, ripping down Cavalet and flexing afterward as he celebrated with teammates.
Former State College coach Sherdell Snyder, who spent 27 seasons as an assistant, was honored as this year’s Central Pennsylvania Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee.
Snyder, known as “Poppy,” helped 93 Little Lions continue to play in college and was on State College’s staff for a memorable 36-game winning streak.
Also recognized Friday night was Penns Valley quarterback and safety Andrew Tobias, who was awarded the Jack Bailey Memorial Scholarship.
5 area teams represented at Lezzer Lumber Classic
Bald Eagle Area (2): Michael Salvanish, Hunter Weston
Bellefonte (3): Eli Lipscomb, Gavin Danneker, Jaiden Boone
Penns Valley (5): Andrew Tobias, Jared Hurd, Ryan Long, Christian Rudolph, Luke Snyder
Philipsburg-Osceola (1): Brad Dunkel
State College (5): Peyton Edwards, Aziz Salamy, Tyler Snyder, Will Swope, Kam’ron Walker