SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For the third time in the last five years, the North-South All-Star football game proved to be a defensive showcase. A failed two-point conversion with 62 seconds left was the difference as the North Bears prevailed over the South Cardinals, 8-6.
“This is the kind of football I like,” said North head coach A.J. Harman (Liberty H.S.). “This was physical. I have to give a lot of credit to the South coaches and how prepared they were.”
Each team found the end zone just once. After a scoreless first half, the North capitalized on their first possession of the third quarter. Fairmont Senior’s combo of Connor Neal and Rhett Heston connected on a 73-yard touchdown pass to break the stalemate. Heston lined up in the backfield and went untouched into the end zone after reeling in a short pass. Neal found Bridgeport’s D’Andre Hollaway on a two-point conversion pass to give the North an 8-0 lead.
“All season, that play was part of our package,” Heston said. “I have run that play a lot and we drilled it a lot this week. It is just a good play.”
“We ran that play a lot during the week,” said Morgantown lineman Nick Malone. “It was fun. I sprinted all the way down the field. We knew that play was going to score at some point.”
Trailing 8-0 with 3:25 to play in the fourth quarter, South’s offense finally came alive. They drove 62 yards on eight plays in 2:23. Sissonville’s Will Hackney found Sherman’s J.T. Hensley at the goal line on an 8-yard touchdown pass to get the South on the board with 1:02 to play. However, Grafton’s Caleb Bish broke up a two-point conversion pass attempt in the end zone to keep the score 8-6.
The South attempted an onside kick but Pendleton County’s Kole Puffenberger recovered it for the North, securing the victory for the Bears.
The North has now won four consecutive games in the annual series. In three of the last five meetings, the teams have combined to score seventeen points or less.
The North outgained the South 174-123.
Heston (TD reception) and Hensley (TD reception, 2 INT) earned Game MVP honors for their respective teams. ‘Game Balls’ were handed out to Jefferson’s Jevon Lang (North) and Clay County’s Caleb Wynn (South). Capital’s Kalai Clark (South) and Liberty’s Jaden Rollyson (North) were named the top linemen in the game.
“We played hard on defense and a lot of things worked out for us today,” said South head coach David Moneypenny (Fayetteville H.S.). “Offensively, we knew it was going to be tough moving the ball against them. They have some dudes over there. But I was real happy with how our kids played.”
South’s defensive effort was paced by Fayetteville linebacker Sammy Pullens. He led all players with seven tackles. Fayetteville students will be consolidated into Oak Hill for the 2019-2020 academic year. “It is extremely humbling to have had this opportunity,” Moneypenny said. “It might be my last one but it was an honor.”