Three Tigers score in McDonald's win
In the days of practice heading up to Thursday night's game, the Red Team's defense looked impressive and crisp against its offensive counterparts. But that defensive players were not sure if they were as dominant as advertised.
Judging by their performance in the actual game, that question was answered in convincing fashion.
The Red Team (comprised of players from Lehigh, Carbon and Monroe counties)rode two interception returns for touchdowns by Northwestern players to a 29-27 victory in the 45th Annual McDonald's Lehigh Valley All-Star Football Classic held at Nazareth High School's Andrew Leh Stadium. Those two Tigers were responsible for creating two of Red's six turnovers on the night.
"Our offense couldn't really get it going against our defense earlier in the week," said Taylor Breininger, who had one of the defensive scores. "We weren't sure if our defense was that good, or if our offense wasn't really clicking. It showed that our defense was the real deal tonight."
After another Tiger, Cam Richardson, gave Red a 6-0 lead early with a 14-yard touchdown reception from Southern Lehigh's Travis Edmond, the defensive barrage got started.
And it came from an unlikely source.
Looking to respond on the ensuing drive, the Gold Team decided to go for it on a fourth and one deep in their own territory. That decision not to punt ended up hurting Gold mightily, as Northwestern lineman Chris Trumbauer intercepted a screen pass and returned it 28 yards to push Red's lead to 12-0 after a failed two-point conversion.
"I just read the play, and I kind of knew they were setting up for a screen," Trumbauer said. "I was lucky to be in the right spot at the right time. I was more worried about catching it than seeing how far I could go."
Trumbauer wasn't even sure he was going to suit up just a few days before the game kicked off.
"I went out last Wednesday with a hand injury, and I got cleared Tuesday to come back," Trumbauer said. "I was debating if I wanted to come back or not, but I guess everything worked out then."
Gold, which included players from Phillipsburg (NJ) along with Palisades and Northampton County, scored two touchdowns 3:51 apart in the second quarter to seize momentum.
Palisades' Christian Gretzinger capped Gold's first drive in the quarter with a 12-yard touchdown run, and Easton's Dalvyn Reynolds scampered 44 yards for a score to make it a 13-12 advantage.
But it was another defensive play from Red that gave them some more breathing room in the third quarter. Breininger read a flat route and jumped the receiver for an interception that resulted in a 56-yard score to give Red a 22-13 lead.
"As soon as the ball went up, I thought to myself I was worried about not dropping it," Breininger said. "Lastly, I was making sure I didn't get caught."
Gretzinger kept Gold alive with a 45-yard touchdown run to open the fourth, but Dieruff's Chris Marks' QB sneak gave Red a 29-20 lead with 3:09 to play.
Liberty's Josiah Wright hit Palisades' Devin Ramsden on a flee-flicker 40-yard touchdown throw in the final moments, but Red was able to run the clock out.
Richardson caught three passes for 29 yards and a touchdown, while another Tiger, Frank Dangello, threw a 33-yard pass in the win. Northwestern's Jason Pechacek and George Haddad were also elected to the Red Team all-stars.
In the end, it was a great way for the top Lehigh Valley seniors to end their careers, while also helping support a cause in the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
"It was great playing with kids that you're not really used to playing with," Breininger said. "Some of them I'm meeting for the first time and creating friendships. This is the best way I could ask to end my senior year."