TERRE HAUTE —
A clutch game-winning field goal in the last minute by a player who had never kicked before.
A defensive touchdown and a game-saving interception by a player participating in his first winning football game in almost 21 months.
Those were only two of the many treats provided late Saturday night by the Wabash Valley Football Coaches Association’s eighth annual all-star game at Memorial Stadium, in which the Black squad prevailed 44-41 on that 32-yard field goal by Marshall’s Andre Strohm.
The real winner, coach Steve Weber of Linton and the losing Gold squad said afterward, was the first-time format that pitted Gold vs. Black instead of North vs. South.
“They got it right. This is the right format,” Weber said in praise of the new system, in which the all-star coaches drafted schools from the WVFCA’s 35-member list to make up their teams. “It was a heck of a game, and I think the fans got their money’s worth.”
Weber has been head coach in more WVFCA all-star games than anyone else — all for South teams prior to this year — and was the only South coach to emerge with a win. Troy Burgess of South Putnam and Saturday’s Black team is now 1-1 as a WVFCA head coach, having also been on the losing end with a South team.
“This was a lot more fun,” Burgess said afterward. “It was a competitive game, which makes it more fun. Coming out on top is the icing on the cake.”
Burgess’s team looked like big winners early in the game, racing to three-touchdown leads on three occasions with the help of some big plays.
But the Gold team found its own explosiveness in the second half — in the first 10 minutes of the third quarter Gold ran just four plays, but for 159 yards and two long touchdowns — only to have two serious threats to score the go-ahead touchdown thwarted by interceptions in the final 2:13.
“We told the kids, ‘This is an all-star game, and both sides have kids who can make plays,’ ” Burgess said after the game. “No lead was safe. It says a lot about the kids in the Wabash Valley. There are some very talented kids here, and they showed that tonight.”
“We had kids trying to make plays [early] and things went wrong,” Weber said, “but there was no quit. This was a great bunch of kids. It’s been a blast this week.”
It was the closest and highest-scoring game in the series, in which North had won six of the first seven games. Unofficially there were two records broken — one by two different players — and a third one possibly established for future reference.
Records aren’t kept for spectacular plays, but Saturday’s standard in that area would be hard to beat. If loud, de-cleating open-field blocks were kept, this game would have gone in the book for that statistic as well.
It started innocently enough with Gold driving to two quick first downs before a fourth-down run was stopped at the Black 34-yard line. Strohm burst 29 yards on his team’s first offensive play, and an eventual 66-yard, eight-play drive was capped by a 1-yard run by quarterback Jacob Duncan, also of Marshall.
Duncan and Strohm then lined up for the extra point as holder and kicker respectively, but Duncan took the snap and pitched it back over his head for Strohm, who ran into the end zone for two points.
Black forced a three-and-out series, and three plays after that Duncan threw a bomb to Taylor Sanders — another Marshall player — for a 66-yard score. This time the extra point was another fake kick, but Duncan’s pass was incomplete.
Gold then marched to Black’s 16-yard line where its drive stalled, and Casey’s Clark Schultz lined up for a field goal on fourth down. The snap wound up on the ground, several players on both sides had chances to get it, and finally Northview’s Chance Talbot picked it up for the Black team — but didn’t have it long.
“He picked the ball up and I saw his eyes get real wide,” said Riverton Parke’s Gary Secuskie after the game. “He saw me and threw the ball up, and luckily I was able to take it.” Take it 70 yards to the end zone, actually, and when Strohm finally did kick an extra point the Black had a 21-0 lead late in the first quarter.
A fumble recovery by North Central’s Kody Basinger gave the Black team a chance to get even farther ahead, but North Putnam’s Nate Bryan got the ball back for Gold with a fumble recovery of his own two plays later. That set up a 54-yard, eight-play drive, with North Putnam’s Kolten Everts getting Gold on the board with a 6-yard touchdown run with 10:08 left in the first half.
An exchange of punts by North Central’s Zach Lyday and Terre Haute North’s A.J. Hughes, both of whom broke the previous record for punting average (Hughes 2 for a 51-yard average, Lyday 3 for a 46.3-yard mark) led to another of the big early plays for Black. Hughes’ kick was a 59-yard cannon shot, but Northview’s Damon Hyatt had time to field it on a high bounce with his back to the oncoming pursuers. He turned, eluded the first wave and got a couple of those open-field blocks, weaving his way to an 80-yard punt return that might be a WVFCA record (a punt return record is not listed in the game program).
“I hadn’t got a touch in the whole game, so I was hungry for the ball,” Hyatt said after the game. “I love open-field opportunities, and I love making people miss.”
Gold was behind by three touchdowns again, but now its offense was clicking. Gold scored on a 38-yard pass from Everts to Olney’s Brook Pampe, who jumped over a Black defender to snatch the ball away and continued to the end zone. Three plays later, an interception by Bryan followed by a 31-yard run by Mattoon’s Zack Myers set up a 1-yard run by quarterback Shaunesy Carlen, also of Mattoon, and Gold was within 28-21 with 1:57 left in the first half.
That left enough time for Duncan to drive Black to another score before intermission, however. He scored himself on a 43-yard run with 32 seconds to go, and Strohm broke free on the first series of the second half for a 30-yard touchdown run that restored a 41-21 lead.
Gold’s response was instantaneous, however. Carlen looked right on Gold’s first second-half offensive play, then turned back to his left and found Pampe — a relative unknown when all-star practice began on June 17 — who did his own open-field running for a 69-yard touchdown play.
“You’ve just got to hustle in practice so the coaches see you,” said the Olney Central basketball recruit, who used his ability in that sport for his first touchdown catch. “No one knew who [the Olney players] were when we came.”
After Gold forced Black to punt, Everts took his turn running the Gold offense and set a WVFCA record with an 81-yard score, the longest run from scrimmage in all-star history.
Weber went back to Carlen for Gold’s third offensive series of the second half, and this time the result was an 85-yard, 13-play drive. Short passes to North Putnam’s Tyler Shorter and Sullivan’s Ryan Vernelson both went for big yardage, Carlen did a John Elway-like helicopter spin after a big hit as he got to the 1-yard line, and he scored on the next play to tie the score 41-41 with 9:22 left in the game.
“We just kept fighting, kept playing,” Carlen said after the game. “We played tough D and we had some big plays. It sucks to lose by three, but it was a hell of a game.”
“We started a little slow; it was just us getting meshed together,” said Everts, after the two Gold quarterbacks combined for 432 yards passing and 113 rushing. “But we never quit, and in the second half we saw our opening and took advantage … Shaunesy is an amazing player. It was an honor to play with him.”
Black drove into scoring position, but an end-zone interception by Cumberland’s Kendal Butler stopped that drive. Gold moved past midfield, but Cascade’s Alex Arthur got an interception of his own.
Duncan found Sanders for 21 yards — Marshall’s Lions had a lot of Black’s offensive stats — and then hit a diving Lucas Steward of Terre Haute South for 16 yards at Gold’s 16-yard line. Then Gold’s defense stiffened, forcing fourth-and-9.
“We called a timeout and we asked [Strohm] if he wanted to kick it,” Burgess said afterward. “He said he could make it, and he did.”
“I didn’t think we were going to kick a field goal at all [in the game]; that wasn’t in the plan,” Strohm said. “I messed around at practice a few times [but never kicked in a game] … I volunteered myself [as kicker for the week].”
“It was really cool. Everything turned out good,” added Strohm, who also handled kickoff duties and even saw some action on defense while rushing for 82 yards in five carries.
Forty-three seconds seemed like plenty of time for Gold’s offense. It was Carlen’s turn, and he found Myers out of the backfield for 27 yards, then hit Pampe who got out of bounds at the Black 26. The next pass was picked off by Secuskie, however, and Black had held on.
A hero’s role was a nice change for the Panther, who played strong safety on Saturday and had held many roles for his winless team in the fall of 2011.
“We had a losing season [at Riverton Parke] but we always came out and played our hardest,” he said. “It was a great honor to play with this group.”
That sentiment seemed pretty universal among the players afterward.
“Getting together with a bunch of playmakers is an awesome time,” said Hyatt. “It’s nice to be able to depend on other people to make big plays.”
“I’ll miss the camaraderie [of football],” said Pampe. “Even this week I made some new friends.”
“It was fun practicing together and meeting all these kids,” added Carlen. “It was a really good experience.”
Black 44, Gold 41
Gold 0 21 13 7 — 41
Black 21 14 6 3 — 44
B — Jacob Duncan (Marshall) 1 run (Andre Strohm, Marshall, run), 7:32 1st
B — Taylor Sanders (Marshall) 66 pass from Duncan (pass failed), 5:39 1st
B — Gary Secuskie (Riverton Parke) 70 run with recovered fumble (Strohm kick), 2:37 1st
G — Kolten Everts (North Putnam) 6 run (Clark Schultz, Casey, kick), 10:08 2nd
B — Damon Hyatt (Northview) 80 punt return (Strohm kick), 5:22 2nd
G — Brook Pampe (Olney) 38 pass from Everts (Schultz kick), 3:57 2nd
G — Shaunesy Carlen (Mattoon) 1 run (Schultz kick), 1:57 2nd
B — Duncan 43 run (Strohm kick), 0:32 2nd
B — Strohm 30 run (kick failed), 9:38 3rd
G — Pampe 69 pass from Carlen (Schultz kick), 9:13 3rd
G — Everts 81 run (kick failed), 3:49 3rd
G — Carlen 1 run (Schultz kick), 9:22 4th
B — Strohm 32 field goal, 0:43 4th
First downs 23 22
Rushes-yards 24-132 42-250
Passing yards 432 162
Comp-Att-Int 33-49-2 9-20-2
Return yards 22 166
Punts-avg 2-51 3-46.3
Fumbles-lost 2-2 1-1
Penalties-yards 0 5-37
Rushing: Gold — Everts 7-93, Zack Myers (Mattoon) 1-31, Carlen 8-20, Jack McKinnon (North Knox) 1-4, Matt Loudermilk (Turkey Run) 4-2, Jake Gates (Mattoon) 1-1, Tyler Shorter (North Putnam) 1-minus 5, team 1-minus 14. Black — Duncan 22-125, Strohm 5-81, Rob Gibson (South Putnam) 5-35, Tyler Evans (Terre Haute South) 5-18, Zach Lyday (North Central) 5-minus 9.
Passing: Gold — Everts 20-31-1, 240 yards; Carlen 13-18-1, 192. Black — Duncan 8-17-2, 160; Lyday 1-3-0, 2.
Receiving: Gold — Shorter 9-104, Ryan Vernelson (Sullivan) 9-70, Pampe 5-136, Tyrus Meeks (Mattoon) 4-36, Lane Clark (North Vermillion) 2-30, Myers 1-27, Gates 1-15, Brad Thomas (Linton) 1-9, Loudermilk 1-5. Black — Sanders 4-104, Strohm 1-23, Lucas Steward (Terre Haute South) 1-16, Brandt Lawyer (North Daviess) 1-11, Ethan Atwood (Cloverdale) 1-6, Cody Thornton (West Vigo) 1-2.