JOHNSTOWN - The South's speed and power were a couple of its strengths going into the 42nd annual Ken Lantzy Finest 40 All-Star Classic.
As it turned out, those strengths were way too much for the North to handle.
Led by Johnstown quarterback Gervon Simon, Rockwood QB Ben Miller and Bishop McCort receiver Jerqual Wilson, the South hammered the North, 44-6, in a marathon game Friday night at Johnstown's Trojan Stadium.
Photo for the Mirror by Roger Vogel
Dakota Hess, of Bedford, returns an interception.
"It's like playing a video game on your X-Box," South coach Brandon Bailey said. "It is a lot of fun. Our goal was to let those athletes get in space, and go out there and have fun. I think we did a pretty good job of that. Our quarterbacks did a pretty good job of distributing the ball."
"We knew coming in that we had more athletes than they did," Simon said. "In our eyes, we were the favorites to win. We didn't take it easy on each other in practice. We made each other go hard. We got the offense clicking, got the defense clicking and we knew were going to lights out."
"The speed wasn't really our concern," Bedford graduate Marcus Shippey, who led the North with 41 yards rushing on eight carries playing quarterback and running back. "They had bigger guys than we did, and they just ran behind them, and we couldn't stop them."
Simon threw two interceptions, but he scored three touchdowns on his last game at home before heading to West Point.
"I was real nervous at the beginning," Simon said. "I wasn't playing up to my expectations. I came out for the second half, calmed down a little bit and I just went to work. I just had a fun time with my boys."
The South struck first when Windber's Colin Bryan completed a 58-yard, 13-play drive with a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal with 5:12 left in the first quarter.
The South scored again in the second quarter after Chestnut Ridge's Brad Hengst fumbled at the South 24. On the next play, Rockwood quarterback Ben Miller hit Wilson for a 76-yard touchdown pass. Miller then hit Richland's Zach Hanley for the two-point conversion.
The North, however, took advantage of a couple personal foul penalties to get to the South 8, where Forest Hills Anthony Unger scampered in for a score.
The South responded when Simon went 4 yards for a score with 7:22 left in the first half.
Simon scored his second touchdown on a 2-yard run at the 10:33 mark of the third (there were 15-minute quarters). Ben Miller later hooked on a 19-yard scoring strike to Meyersdale's Brandon Miller, and the two-point conversion made it 36-6.
Simon scored his last Td on a 1-yard run with 5:31 left.
"I'm so happy for him," Bailey said. "This is his last time here in this stadium. He did a great job grasping the offense all week. Ben Miller did a great job as well. Gervon was a little tense early and tried to do too much, but he settled down and had a fantastic night."
The margin of victory is one of the largest in the history of the game, leaving the North, which had 24 local players, searching for answers
"I'm really surprised," Shippey said. "They had some calls that went their way and not ours. We just fell apart at halftime, and we just couldn't get it back together."
"It was a lot about momentum," North coach Ernie Fetzer said. "We dropped seven balls tonight. We dropped one in the end zone that would have been a touchdown. If you look at those kind of things, it changes the thing. It changes the way we call the game. They were very highly skilled, and they were big."
Notes: Some members of the Bishop McCort state-title winning baseball team arrived with their medals. ...Shippey boomed a 57-yard punt. ...Simon was picked off by Bedford's Dakota Hess and Tussey Mountain's Joshua White.