Altoona’s Murray wins secondary MVP in North’s victory
By Paul Buriak
For the Mirror
JOHNSTOWN — After one year of COVID-19 related issues, the Ken Lantzy Finest 40 All-Star football game returned to the field Friday night at Johnstown’s Trojan Stadium.
In a contest that is usually a showcase for wide-open, high-scoring offense, the North All-Stars controlled the action with a dominant defensive effort, while Berlin quarterback Will Spochart threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score to account for all three touchdowns in a 20-0 win over the South in the 50th edition of the series.
“From our perspective, it was a great night,” North coach Brandon Bailey said of Richland. “Everyone got a lot of playing time, and we were able to get a lot of people touches on offense. For our defense to throw a shutout, it was impressive considering all the talent they had on offense over there.”
The North defense limited the South to just 74 yards rushing and 76 yards passing while forcing four turnovers. Altoona’s Kyle Murray anchored that performance with three of the North’s four interceptions, and those splash plays helped Murray earn defensive backfield MVP honors for his team.
“This was a great team win, and I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Murray said. “We had a great week of practice, and we made good things happen,” said the St. Vincent College recruit. “I came in wanting to make a big play, but it was more important to get the win.”
Spochart completed 5 of 12 passes for a game-high 87 yards, while also leading all rushers with 57 yards on eight carries to earn the North’s offensive back MVP award. Both of Spochart’s touchdown passes went to Central Cambria graduate Nate Wyrwas, who was the contest’s leading receiver with five catches for 78 yards.
“We knew we were going to throw the ball more than run,” Wyrwas said. “We jelled throughout the week in practice and went out and had a big game.”
Wyrwas opened the scoring when he reached out and made a finger-tip grab in stride for a 39-yard touchdown on the final play of the first quarter, and Berlin’s Brady Glessner added the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
The North added to that advantage later in the second after a pass interference penalty helped move them toward the red zone. Spochart eluded a tackle on a 15-yard keeper to put the North up 13-0 at the 6:34 mark, and Murray subsequently helped keep the South off the board with his first pick of the night in the final seconds of the half.
After the North stopped the South on downs at its own 44 to open the third quarter, the North responded with a seven-play scoring drive. Spochart connected with Wyrwas twice on the series, including a 12-yard touchdown toss with 8:39 left in the period. Glessner’s second PAT made it 20-0.
Early in the fourth, the South engineered its best offensive series of the game. Chestnut Ridge’s Logan Pfister completed four straight passes as the South picked up four consecutive first downs en route to a first-and-goal at the 6.
However, Pfister was sacked for an eight-yard loss and Bedford’s Steven Ressler lost seven yards before Richland’s Jacob Sabol picked off Pfister to turn away the threat.
“It just wasn’t our night on the offensive side of the ball,” South coach Kevin Steele of Bedford said. “We had a great group of kids who were competitors, but we couldn’t put it in the end zone.”
GAME NOTES: Northern Cambria’s Gavin Dumm had a game-high 10.5 tackles to earn the South’s defensive line MVP award. … The other defensive line MVP went to the North’s Chad Morningstar of Tussey Mountain. … Offensive line MVP honors went to the South’s Jaydin Vargas of Bedford and the North’s Bryce Batche of Richland. … Pfister led the South with 73 yards passing to earn his squad’s offensive back MVP. … The South’s Dave Rizzo Leadership Award went to United’s Hunter Cameron. … Academic achievement scholarships were awarded to Ian Eckenrode of Cambria Heights, Bedford’s Connor Clarke, and Corey Sossong of Portage.