There were offensive heroes as one might imagine Saturday night for the Gold Squad’s 42-3 win over the Black Squad in the 15th annual Wabash Valley Football Coaches Association All-Star Game at Memorial Stadium.
But the reason the Gold Squad won, dominating play on the scoreboard more than in the course of play — at least until the third quarter — was its defense, a bunch of piranha who never gave the Black offense a chance to breathe.
“We left practice most days feeling bad because we didn’t think we were getting much done on offense,” coach Brian Crabtree of North Vermillion and the Gold Squad said after the game was halted early in the third quarter by weather threats. “It turns out our defense was just really good.”
The yardage totals weren’t all that disparate in the first half, and the Black team ran more plays than the Gold team got to.
But part of the reason for that was five turnovers, two of them turned into touchdowns.
The pattern of the game was established early. The first Black series included two quarterback sacks, and Gold scored four plays later on a 39-yard run by Edgewood’s Levon Bellemy.
Another three-and-out series for Black was converted into a four-play drive capped by a 6-yard pass from Sullivan’s Jack Conner to Greencastle’s Gavin Bollman and it was 14-0 just past the midpoint of the first quarter.
Black steadied itself to mount a four-minute drive, the big play a 20-yard fourth-down pass from Casey’s Marcus Downs to Mattoon’s Brock Smith, and Terre Haute South’s Orian Roshel converted a 31-yard field goal near the end of the quarter. Black then forced a Gold punt early in the second quarter.
With the chance to take momentum back, however, Black immediately fumbled after a 20-yard run and Terre Haute North’s Shane Hapenny recovered.
That turnover didn’t blossom into a score, but on the next series North Vermillion linebacker Corey Buchhaas picked off a pass and had an easy 51-yard trip to the end zone.
“I caught it and everything felt like it stopped,” said Buchhaas, who had clinched North Vermillion’s semistate win over Indianapolis Lutheran with a similar pick-6. “Then I looked and saw the end zone.”
The 21-3 score looked like it would hold up until halftime, but a fumble recovery by Eastern Greene’s Jaden Evans gave Gold the ball at Black’s 19-yard line. Two plays later Conner completed a pass at the goal line to North Putnam’s Chris Murray.
Black still had one drive before halftime, led by the running of West Vigo’s Matty Berkley, but South Putnam’s Dalton Scott blocked a field goal attempt at the halftime buzzer.
The second half was probably worse for the Black Squad. First Gold drove for a touchdown, Northview’s Trey Shaw completing a 48-yard bomb to Owen Valley’s Noah Cook to set it up, then hitting Cook again for the score, and on Black’s third offensive play Northview’s Reis Spradley took a strip sack to the end zone to make it 42-3.
Five plays after that, with Black again backed up to a 4th-and-19 situation, lightning was spotted. With a storm cell looming, and the game more than likely out of reach, a decision was reached quickly to halt the proceedings.
“We were eight deep up front,” Crabtree said shortly after that. “As hot as it was, we could switch mid-series with no dropoff, and that was huge.”
“I was real nervous, being away from football for so long,” said Hapenny who — at 185 pounds — was one of the disruptive defensive linemen. “But Big John [North line coach John Barrett] said to just go out and have some fun and that’s what I did.
He had help in that regard, Hapenny added.
“Just being around such a great group of guys, you could feed off every person’s energy,” he said.
“We were pretty confident with our defense,” Buchhaas added. “We had a lot of guys who knew what they were doing, and they were very physical.”
° Honors — Scholarship winners and 2019 Hall of Fame inductees were announced at Friday night’s WVFCA banquet and recognized during Saturday’s game.
New members of the Hall of Fame are Andy Amey of the Tribune-Star, for his promotion of the All-Star Game and of high school football in general; Brent Compton of Pacesetter Sports, one of the game’s two main sponsors and providers of uniforms and gear; Norm Lowery, president of First Financial Bank which is the first title sponsor of the game; and Dave Patterson, executive director of the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau, another partner and game sponsor.
Scholarship winners were Ben Lynk of Parke Heritage, the Jay Barrett Athletic Foundation Award for a player going on to play college football; Drew Moore of Red Hill, the Brett Eitel Memorial Scholarship for academics; Jacob Freels of Sullivan and Payton Smith of Mattoon, the lineman scholarships from the Central Wabash Valley Building and Trades Council; Corey Buchhaas of North Vermillion and Jake Wilkes of Cloverdale, the scholarship picked by the all-star coaches; and Jake Sherman of Terre Haute North and Gunner Runyon of Mattoon, the Pete Varda Scholarships chosen by the players.
The Friends of Wayne Stahley “Good Night Irene” scholarship and the Foli Foundation Award were both presented after the game to Jake Powell of Sullivan and Buchhaas.