It was a loss that didn’t sting quite as much.
The South team beat the North 37-15 Friday night at Mansion Park in the 32nd annual Lezzer Lumber Classic All-Star Football Game.
With less than a week of practices, basic offenses and some relaxed play, the pressure was off even as the South won for the second straight year in the series.
Among the big contributors for the North in the loss, quarterback Mikey Kresovich was 5 of 13 passing for 45 yards and a pair of interceptions, Ben Alexander caught four passes for 62 yards — leading the team in receiving yards, while Charles Ross of St. Joe’s caught five passes for 30 yards. Alexander also caught a two-point conversion.
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“It was awesome,” Alexander said. “It’s a great group of guys. Just felt that brotherhood and that fun, and just go out there and play hard again one last time under the Friday night lights.”
The North offense struggled with minus-10 yards rushing, augmented by a couple fumbles, and 193 yards of total offense.
“Obviously we lost, but it was probably one of the most fun games I’ve had,” said State College lineman Wade Bonsell. “Playing with a bunch of different people was so fun, being out there and getting in the game, forming the relationships and watching it all come together, it was pretty sweet.”
The participants were told before they even put the pads on for the first time together at the beginning of the week it would be a memorable experience.
“It was probably one of the best weeks of football of my entire life,” said Kresovich, who will be enrolling at Penn State this fall to study broadcast journalism. “We had a lot of fun, coming together to play football, there’s nothing better.”
The quarterback-receiver combination from Central Martinsburg High School of Noah Benton to Justin Helsel proved to be lethal, producing three touchdown strikes. Benton was 9 of 15 for 210 yards, while Helsel caught eight passes for 165 yards.
That passing combination produced two long strikes in the second quarter. The first came on a 58-yard catch by Helsel, jumping over the back of defensive back Jacob Anderson of Philipsburg-Osceola to snare the ball at the 25 before running the rest of the way. The second was a sideline strike to Helsel with 2:44 left in the half.
A penalty after the play moved the ball back on the ensuing kickoff, and another on the return helped set the North up at the South 30-yard line to start the drive, and the North capitalized with a five-play drive capped by an Isabella 3-yard run. Alexander caught the 2-point conversion.
“It’s hard with, what, four days of practices to put stuff together?” said Alexander, who will be enrolling at Liberty and joining the football team there in a few weeks. “I think we did a good job with the amount of time we had. It’s an all-star game, just to have fun. But it’s frustrating because I hate to lose.”
The half ended in crazy fashion, with five attempts at a field goal for the South, with an inadvertent whistle negating a blocked kick, and penalties wiping out other attempts before Evan Lingafelt connected from 29 yards out.
The Benton-to-Helsel combo struck again in the third from 16 yards away to lengthen the lead, but on the ensuing kick Curwensville’s Newkirk sprinted 87 yards for a touchdown and a 24-15 margin.
Altoona’s Nick Hayden then plunged in from the 1 for the South to add to the lead.
Huntingdon’s Hudson Speck capped the scoring with a 37-yard interception return for a score, his second pick of the night, swiping the ball from Kresovich.
“I hit my hand off one of the big guys’ helmets on the other team,” Kresovich said. “As soon as I threw it I felt it. It was a curve ball.”
A pair of State College athletes were listed on the roster early in the week but did not practice or take part in running back Jordan Misher and receiver Kellin Valentine.
“It was kind of frustrating we couldn’t run the ball as well as we thought we could,” Bonsell said. “It clicked at times, and other times it didn’t.”
Notes: The Bishop Guilfoyle team was honored at halftime for winning the PIAA Class A title last season. … A number of scholarships were given out after the game. Among the recipients were Penns Valley’s Chase Collison (Jack Bailey Memorial Scholarship) and State College’s Mark Weakland (M & T Bank Scholarship).