By Matt Popchock
The final game of the high school career of Pittsburgh Central Catholic quarterback Perry Hills couldn’t have gone more according to plan for the Maryland recruit, even the part that didn’t go according to plan at all.
Early in the fourth quarter, a botched snap rolled all the way back into his own end zone. Rather than take a safety, he scooped up the ball, and, scrambling to his right, lobbed it to a wide-open Dontezz Ford in front of his own sideline.
The unguarded Sto-Rox receiver turned it into a back-breaking touchdown that capped a 45-24 win for the West in the 11th annual PSFCA (Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches’ Association) East-West All-Star Game at Antimarino Stadium Sunday afternoon.
It was a fitting punctuation to this already unique contest, which set an event record for highest aggregate score. The game, which moved to Gateway High School from Altoona after a one-year hiatus, raised money for the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Pittsburgh and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, while giving some of the top talent in Pennsylvania one more chance to shine before college.
“I remembered during our season, there was a high snap. When we watched it on film, my coaches said, ‘Hey, you had some guys open down the field.’ So…I was thinking about throwing it away, but whenever I picked up the ball, I saw I had time. I saw the open receiver, so I just gave it to him, and let him make a play,” Hills explained.
“That was designed to be a running play,” Ford said of his impromptu 88-yard touchdown, “so I threw a stock block at corner. But then [Perry] just takes off running, and I’m wondering where he’s going…then I turn around, and Perry has the ball, just nodding his head to me. He throws it…and I just take off.”
Hills completed eight of his nine passes for a staggering 277 yards and four TD’s, and also ran four times for 23 yards en route to co-MVP honors. He got a ton of help from Ford, a Syracuse recruit at safety, who caught six of those, and accounted for three of the scores and 192 yards.
“It feels great to go out like that,” Hills said.
His counterpart and future ACC rival, Central Bucks South quarterback Matt Johns, looked good in defeat. The Virginia recruit shared the game MVP award with Hills after connecting on nine of his 16 attempts for 199 yards and a touchdown, while running four times for 11 yards.
Johns quickly drove the East to a 7-0 lead with a four-play, 68-yard series highlighted by a 44-yard strike to Mark Doe down the middle. It ended with a nine-yard run to paydirt off right tackle by regular teammate and Lehigh recruit Daniel Brown just over a minute into the game.
Blue Mountain kicker and Pitt recruit Brad Lukasak dazzled the crowd with a 48-yard field goal from the right hash that gave the East a 10-0 edge. McKeesport receiver Jamar Clark hauled in a seven-yard pass from Akron recruit and PIAA Class AA finalist Steve Franco to cut it to 10-7 with two minutes left in the first quarter.
After an ugly period that saw the West commit three of five combined turnovers, Hills and his mates shook off the rust. They forced a turnover on downs at their own 30, and he ultimately found Clark again, as the Youngstown State recruit made a terrific falling catch in tight coverage from 32 yards away to give the West its first lead. Hills later went deep to Ford, who juggled the ball near midfield before outracing his defender for an 80-yard TD that made it 21-10, and his 13-yard strike to Darren Massey made it 28-17 at halftime.
The West kept the East at bay in the second half thanks to the running of Rochester halfback/linebacker De’Andre Moon, who carried 13 times for 122 yards and delivered two crucial blows on offense.
With the West holding onto a 28-24 lead late in the third quarter, he shed three tackles–one in the backfield, two at the line of scrimmage–and sprinted for a 44-yard gain that set up a Ryan Gralish field goal. A subsequent field goal attempt by Lukasak was blocked by Mike Shansky, and Brian Jones returned the dormant ball to the East 19-yard line. Moon burrowed through a hole on his right to score on the very next play.
“I didn’t see [my tackler, LeRoy McClain] at all until the last minute, when I tripped. I just saw the end zone,” said Moon, who will play for Concord (WV), an NCAA Division II program, later this year. “I came out of the game because I was tired, but when we blocked that kick, it felt like a blessing to get that second chance from my teammates, so I got my one touchdown for the day.”
The East maintains a 7-4 all-time series lead.
“I met a whole bunch of people I never got to meet before, and now I see what all the hype was about,” Moon added. “It was great to have some of those guys on my team.”
“This was a good experience,” Ford said. “It’s good to play against kids that have just as much or more talent as you, because you get a taste of what it’s going to be like at the next level.”
(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)