BROCKWAY — The AML All-Stars used big plays on both sides of the ball to score its second straight lopsided victory over the KSAC All-Stars, 40-14, Friday night in the 3rd Annual Frank Varischetti All-Star Game.
Kane’s Reed Williams tossed touchdown passes of 71 and 60 yard to Ridgway’s Neil MacDonald and former Wolves teammate Ray Maze, respectively, in the opening three minutes of the game, as the AML led start to finish on a steamy night at Frank Varischetti Field.
The KSAC cut that lead in half shortly there after at 13-7 on a 47-yard TD pass from Clarion-Limestone’s Brenden Makray to Clarion’s Spencer Miller, but it was all AML from there as it used a bend but don’t break defense to slowly pull away from the KSAC for its third win in as many years in the event.
Time will tell how the game will be set up going forward, with the tradition AML and KSAC conferences going by the way side in favor of a new District 9 Football League featuring Large School and Small School divisions this coming season.
The final stats weren’t reflective of the final score, as the AML only outgained the KSAC, 389-359. However, the AML made one big defensive play after another when it needed it. The AML picked off Makray three times, recovered an onsides kick, benefited from a bad punt snap deep in KSAC territory and forced the KSAC to turn the ball over on downs three times in AML territory in the second half.
The Tri-County Area was well-represented on both sides as five local players found the end zone on the night. Three of the game’s four MVPs also were players from area schools.
On the victorious AML side, Ridgway’s Johnny Mitchell and Williams were named the AML Defensive and Offensive MVPs, respectively, while a pair of Clarion graduates — Miller (Defense) and Colton Rapp (Offense) — garnered the MVP awards for the KSAC.
Mitchell’s defensive award was kind of ironic, given he didn’t play much defense during the regular season for Ridgway. But given that opportunity Friday, all he did was come away with an interception, an onsides kick recovery while making a handful of key tackles and pass breakups from his spot in the secondary.
“I don’t even know how to explain it. We played phenomenal, from goal-line stands to getting three takeaways,” said Mitchell of the AML’s defensive effort. “It’s actually kind of funny (winning MVP). I didn’t play defense all year, and coming in (Ridgway) Coach (Mark) Heindl told them, let him play a little bit of defense, he’s a good player. They gave me the chance, and I had so much fun with it.
“This whole experience was fun. You come in rivals Day 1 and don’t really get along and are talking a little bit, and it just doesn’t feel right. But, as the week progressed, it just got so much better and it (win) came down to brotherhood.”
Williams spearheaded the AML offense, going 13 of 19 passing for 231 yards with three touchdown passes for three different players. He also threw one interception.
Rapp led the KSAC offense as he set a new single-game rushing record for the event with 135 yards on 16 carries. He is the first player in the three-year history of the Varischetti Game to go over the century mark on the ground. Rapp also added five catches for 55 yards.
As for Miller, he added an interception along several tackles and pass breakups to go along with his TD grab on his way being named the KSAC MVP. He also had five catches for 87 yards.
The AML wasted little time finding the scoreboard as Williams went deep to MacDonald for a 71-yard scoring strike on the third play of the game. Port Allegany’s Treyton Stiles made the PAT to make it 7-0 just over a minute in. MacDonald also found the Varischetti record books on the night, as he set a new event record with 107 receiving yards on five catches. He is the first 100-yard receiver the game’s three-year history.
The AML defense forced a quick three-and-out, and it took the offense just one play — a 60-yard scoring strike by the Kane duo of Williams and Maze — to make it 13-0 just 2:45 into the game. Maze had three grabs for 84 yards.
Mitchell then recovered a short kickoff on the ensuing play to put the AML in business again at the Kane 38.
Williams quickly went deep again, but this time Miller came up with a nice leaping interception — returning it back out to the 35. Miller hauled in a 47-yard touchdown catch down the seam three plays later, with Moniteau’s Steve Fawcett booting the extra point to make it 13-7.
Any momentum the KSAC gained with the two big plays was quickly taken away by a 14-play, 70-yard AML touchdown that ate up over five minutes off the first-quarter clock.
Bradford’s John Eakin had a huge 7-yard catch on a shovel pass on fourth-and-4 at the AML 41. Brockway’s Noah Vokes eventually capped the long drive with an acrobatic 14-yard TD catch in the end zone to put the AML up 19-7 with 3:16 left in the opening quarter.
The teams then traded interception’s with Curwensville’s Josh Terry and Brookville’s Brandon McGranor creating those turning for the AML and KSAC, respectively.
The KSAC promptly picked up two first downs after McGranor’s pick, but a huge 21-yard holding penalty followed by a disastrous bad snap on a punt attempt put the AML on the KSAC 3-yard line.
Eakin scored from a yard out on the second play of the second quarter to help give the AML a 26-7 lead following Stiles’ extra point.
Key sacks by each team — by Ridgway’s Drew Kilhoffer and Clarion’s Colt Stimmell — helped stop the ensuing two drives, with a 60-yard booming punt by Mitchell pinning the KSAC at its own 1-yard line. Mitchell averaged 45.8 yards on five punts to aide in his MVP performance.
An offsides on the AML gave the KSAC a little breathing room to start the drive. After two totes by Rapp picked up a first down, the former Bobcat ripped off an 82-yard touchdown run. Fawcett’s PAT pulled the KSAC within 12 at 26-14 with 5:55 left in the second quarter.
The AML eventually took that 12-point lead into the half as the team’s traded punts — four in total — to close out the half.
The KSAC got the ball near midfield to start the second half, but Mitchell picked off Makray at the AML 26 to dash any hopes the KSAC had for an early score to get within a touchdown.
Curwensville’s Nick Stewart promptly ripped off a 27-yard run, while an 11-yard catch had MacDonald had the AML at the KSAC 36 in just two plays.
Vokes added a 16-yard grab two plays later before Stewart capped the 74-yard scoring drive with a 5-yard touchdown run. Eakin’s two-point conversion all but put the game away at 35-14 with 7:03 left in the third quarter. Vokes had fur catches for 37 yards, while Stewart had three carries for 35 yards and two catches for 37 yards.
The KSAC drove into AML territory three times after Stewart’s touchdown but turned the ball over on downs all three times at the AML 36, 27 and 1. The KSAC had first-and-goal at the 3 on that last drive, but the AML defense stuffed four straight runs, with Ridgway’s Max Cowan tackling Rapp for a 4-yard loss on fourth down.
Couderport’s Jared Green also picked off Makray deep in AML territory in the final two minutes of the game as the KSAC went scoreless in five second-half possessions. Makray finished the night 18 of 39 for 225 yards with one TD and three interceptions.
Eakin scored on a 12-yard run with 7:34 remaining to set the final at 40-14.
At halftime, 14 $1,000 scholarships were awarded to players — seven on each time — by the game’s major sponsors. Players who are pursuing post-secondary education or technical training at an accredited school are eligible for the scholarships.
The players submitted academic information along with their school and community involvement and wrote an essay answering the question, “What role has football played in your life and how has it prepared you for your future?”
The scholarship winners were:
The Clyde, Ferraro & Co. scholarship: Ange Constanzo, Kane
The First Commonwealth Bank scholarship: Brandon McGranor, Brookville
The Reschini Group scholarship: Alan Weible, Brockway
The Farmers National Bank scholarship: Colt Stimmell, Clarion
Sen. Joe Scarnati scholarship: Brandon Reed, Elk County Catholic
Staley Capital Advisers scholarship: Logan Minich, Redbank Valley
CNB Bank scholarship: Nick Stewart, Curwensville
The Burns White Attorneys at Law scholarship: Zak Bauer, Clarion
Advanced Disposal scholarship: Noah Vokes, Brockway
The Penn Highlands Healthcare scholarship: Spencer Miller, Clarion
The S&T Bank scholarship: Pierce Yahner, Brockway
BC3 scholarship: Blaine Wilson, Karns City
Varischetti Holdings scholarship: Reed Williams, Kane
Guardian Elder Care scholarship: Alexander Neal, Punxsutawney
A photo gallery of more game photos from the Varischetti Game will be available to view by Monday morning on the Tri-County Sunday/Courier Express website at www.thecourierexpress.com.