Claar, Swaim key South ‘W’

Photo for the Mirror by Roger Kerekes Portage running back Kaden Claar looks for running room for the South team.

By Paul Buriak

For the Mirror

WINDBER — One of the most exciting games in the 51-year history of the Ken Lantzy Finest 40 All-Star Football Classic was played Friday night before a large and enthusiastic crowd at Windber Stadium.

Bedford quarterback Mercury Swaim connected with Portage’s Kaden Claar on a tie-breaking 43-yard touchdown pass with 1:44 remaining, and the South squad’s defense then came up with a defensive stop in the final minute to seal a thrilling 42-35 victory over the North.

“The rules of this game kind of dictate it being an offensive shootout,” said South head coach Matt Grohal of Windber. “I had a ton of skill kids that can make plays, and we came up with one that we were hanging onto until we needed it at the end.

“Kaden Claar made a great catch, and Mercury made a great read.”

South running back Logan Kent of Conemaugh Valley accounted for four of his team’s touchdowns to earn offensive backfield MVP honors. Kent rushed for a game-high 76 yards and two scores on 12 carries, while also completing a 42-yard touchdown pass and adding a 15-yard touchdown reception.

“I wanted to make a statement for the WestPAC and all the other small schools in the community, don’t count us out,” Kent said. “Thanks to our linemen, they put in a lot of work and made us look good.”

North offensive back MVP Matt Whysong of Chestnut Ridge had a big night as well. Whysong caught six passes for 150 yards and one touchdown, and he also had a 35-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter that put his team up 28-27.

“It got really competitive at the end, and it hurt to lose, but I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to play with to end my high school career,” Whysong said. “I had one of the best quarterbacks in the area throwing me the ball, and the best linemen.”

That quarterback for the North was Richland’s Kellan Stahl, who completed 19 of 27 passes for a game-best 312 yards and three touchdowns.

Kent’s touchdown catch from Swaim with just seven seconds left in the first half gave the South a 21-14 advantage, and the second half saw the lead change hands twice. Following Whysong’s go-ahead touchdown run early in the fourth, River Valley’s Angelo Bartolini scored from 3 yards out to put the South back up 35-28 at the 9:04 mark.

Stahl subsequently threw deep to Hollidaysburg’s Justin Wolfe on a 46-yard bomb to tie it with 6:47 left before Swaim engineered a 10-play drive and found Claar for the eventual game-winner. Swaim finished 13 of 18 for 224 yards and two scores while also rushing for 63 yards on 13 carries.

“This was exactly what you want in a high school football game, although we didn’t end up on the right end of it,” said North head coach Justin Wheeler of Bishop Guilfoyle. “Give them credit for finishing their last drive and getting the win.”

Notable: Central’s Josh Waite had five tackles and a sack to earn the South’s defensive line MVP award. The other defensive line MVP went to the North’s Avery Sloan of Hollidaysburg. Offensive line MVP honors went to the South’s Joe McGowan of Bishop McCort and the North’s Jude Grzywinski of Ligonier Valley. Windber’s Dylan Tomlinson had a game-high eight tackles to earn the South’s defensive back MVP award, while North defensive back MVP Ethan Hemminger of Somerset led his team with six tackles.


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