Pennsylvania upends Ohio at Geneva College
By ERIC HAMILTON
Vindicator sports correspondent
BEAVER FALLS, Pa. — When Blackhawk’s Zach Hayward ventures to Ohio this fall to play football for Mount Union, he’ll instantly have bragging rights over his new Ohio teammates.
The standout quarterback showed why he threw for more than 3,000 yards during his high school career, as he burned the Ohio defense for 123 yards, including a 52-yard bomb to break open a tie game.
His throw to Center’s Damon Cotton gave the Pennsylvania all-stars an 18-12 lead early in the fourth quarter and propelled the Keystoners to a 24-12 victory over Ohio in the 30th annual Penn-Ohio All-Star Classic at Geneva College on Friday night.
The go-ahead score came on a play called the Super Duper, a name given to the gadget play by Blackhawk coach Joe Hamilton.
In a variation of a flee-flicker, Hayward handed the ball off to Bryan Stefanik, who handed it right back (not pitched it back). Hayward then went deep to a wide open Cotton for the score.
“I kept telling the coaches it would work,” said Hayward, who added a rushing touchdown in the contest. “I was begging for it for three or four series and they finally just said ‘Go ahead.’ We scored on that play five or six times during our regular season.
“It feels great to end my high school career with a win. The coaches at Mount Union saw me run that play on film and I told them I’ll show them how to run it next year.”
Pennsylvania dominated the game in the beginning and the end. But in the second and third quarters, Ohio did just enough to keep it close. The Keystoners built a 12-0 advantage with a 2-yard scoring run by Christian Jackson and a 1-yard plunge by Hayward. Both conversions failed.
After inserting South Range’s Jack Dawson, Ohio’s offense started to respond. Taking advantage of a long kick return by Columbiana’s Josh Harold, the Buckeyes moved the football.
Dawson accounted for 15 yards rushing on the drive, but his biggest play came via a 36-yard pass to Western Reserve’s Justin Lude. A Pa. face mask penalty was tacked on to give Ohio the ball at the 3.
Crestview’s Corey Hill got the Buckeyes within 12-6 with a 1-yard scoring run.
Harold came up big with another impressive play just before halftime, but this time kicking the ball. The Mercyhurst recruit nailed a 54-yard field goal — a Reeves Stadium record — to pull Ohio within 12-9.
He added a 30-yard boot with 4:40 left in the third quarter to send the game into the fourth quarter with a 12-all tie.
“I’m glad the coaches gave me a shot at it,” said Harold. “I knew I had the distance, but I didn’t know if it would stay straight. It was a fun experience playing one more high school game.”
The fourth quarter was all Pennsylvania, as it outscored Ohio 12-0 down the stretch. After Hayward’s long scoring toss with 11:47 remaining in the game, the Buckeyes wasted a key scoring opportunity.
Gannon Hulea completed three passes on the drive and got Ohio down to the Keystoners’ 40. But an Ohio holding penalty wiped out a long run and two straight negative plays forced fourth down.
Harold attempted a 63-yard field goal, which ultimately resulted in a punt. Pennsylvania took over at its own 20 and added a touchdown with 2:20 left to seal the deal.
“We had our chances and felt good about it being tied going into the fourth,” said Ohio coach Mark Brungard. “We thought we had an advantage in the kicking game, but we had a crucial penalty there and it set us back.
“But this was a fun experience for me and I’m proud of the kids. In a game like this where you don’t know what they’re going to do, you just have to adjust. They had a few trick plays there to use and their speed kind of wore us down a little bit.”
Pennsylvania now leads the all-time series 21-9.
The game is the longest running all-star game between the two states.