First Posted: 12/1/2014
LEHMAN — The UNICO All-Star Classic reorganized this year, splitting the teams differently in an attempt to create a more competitive game.
Even after the changes, however, players from Dallas, Lake-Lehman and Tunkhannock again found themselves on the winning side, often playing prominent roles as the Green defeated the Red, 31-9, in the 64th Annual Unico All-Star Classic Saturday, Nov. 29 at Lake-Lehman’s Edward Edwards Stadium.
Back Mountain players had been on the West team, which had won the previous eight years in the football game for Wyoming Valley Conference seniors. After last year’s 55-14 romp over the East, game organizers decided to have the game’s two coaches draft schools from which they wanted players rather than sticking with the geographic split that had failed to produce competitive contests in recent seasons.
The result of the new arrangement was a one-point game at halftime before the Green, which had rallied to take the lead in the last minute of the second quarter, gradually pulled away in the second half.
Scott Dennis of Holy Redeemer coached a team that used strong contributions from its four playoff squads – Berwick, Northwest, Dallas and Lake-Lehman – and surprising input from winless Tunkhannock to pull out a victory. Players from Holy Redeemer, Hazleton Area and Nanticoke were also part of the Green squad.
Lake-Lehman’s Mike Symeon kicked a 45-yard field goal to open the scoring and added four extra points to finish as the only player in the game responsible for more than six points. Teammate Josh Sayre ran 10 yards for a third-quarter touchdown that opened a 17-9 lead. Tunkhannock’s Ryan Ell completed a 55-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-9 later in the third.
Sayre and Symeon were joined by Alex Major, Antonio Ferrari, Jimmy Stuart, Phil Hettes, Cory Hoyt and Kody Pachamovitch to give the host Knights eight players on the winning team, matching Berwick for the most on the winning side.
Sayre was one of five quarterbacks that Dennis rotated throughout the game. He threw one incompletion and ran twice for 18 yards, including the touchdown.
“He was awesome,” the Holy Redeemer coach said. “He scored there for us and he ran our offense and did a great job.”
Major, Hettes and Pachamovitch each had a tackle. Stuart assisted on two tackles and Hoyt on one.
“Most of the Lehman kids were a big part of our defense,” said Dennis, who went with a steady rotation of players at most positions.
Pachamovitch carried twice for three yards.
Omaj Nijmeh, Ryan Cheskiewicz, Mike Olenginski and Ryan Monk represented Dallas.
Monk played fullback and started in the defensive line. He carried twice for three yards, made a tackle for a three-yard loss and rushed the passer into an interception.
“Monk played a lot of blocking back for us and we tried to get him the ball a couple times,” Dennis said. “He’s a special athlete with great size.”
Cheskiewicz was one of the Green’s top defensive players with three tackles and two assists. He also carried twice for five yards.
Olenginski lost a yard on two carries.
Nijmeh started at receiver, but both teams had trouble throwing the ball in cold conditions with some patches of snow and ice still on the field.
Brian Beuchemin, Kory Callum and Brett Stage joined Ell from Tunkhannock.
Ell had one of the three Green completions, hitting game Most Valuable Player Pat Villani of Holy Redeemer with the quick pass that Villani turned into a game-breaking 55-yard touchdown.
His teammates were a big reason for the Green’s 5-1 advantage in turnovers forced.
Beuchemin intercepted a pass and also made two tackles. Stage recovered a fumble, made a tackle and broke up a pass. Callum made a tackle.
“The Tunkhannock kids did a great job,” Dennis said. “It’s nice the way they went out with the win.”
The Red had a 9-3 lead until the final minute of the half when the Northwest passing combination of Logan Womelsdorf-to-Tyler Burger connected for 55 yards to set up the go-ahead score. The Red had an 86-1 advantage in total yardage until that play, but the Green piled up a 216-19 edge while scoring on four straight possessions for a 31-9 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Jim Norris from Pittston Area coached the Red, which had players from his team as well as Crestwood, Wyoming Valley West, GAR, Coughlin, Hanover Area, Wyoming Area and Meyers.