For a game that tilts a lot of its rules toward the offenses, the WCHS-TV/Fox 11 North-South All-Star Football Classic has almost routinely become a defensive struggle.
In the last five games, the North has won a pair of low-scoring affairs (8-6 in 2019, 10-7 in 2017) and the South claimed a 7-0 victory in 2015.
However, there is a lot of potential firepower on either roster, so points could return in bushel baskets when the teams line up Saturday at South Charleston High School. The game is set to kick off at 12:05 p.m. and will be televised live by WCHS Channel 8.
The North brings a four-game series win streak into the game, but still trails all-time 40-23-3. Last year’s game was canceled for the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the North, Spring Mills quarterback Keon Padmore-Johnson, who averaged 377 yards of total offense in seven games last season, is paired with skilled running backs like Kevon Warren, who averaged 13.6 yards per carry for Martinsburg over the last two seasons.
The South has Mingo Central quarterback Daylin Goad, who threw for 30 touchdowns and ran for 21 as a junior — in his last full season — and averaged nearly 370 yards of total offense. Sissonville running back Dylan Griffith rushed for 1,040 yards and 16 TDs in just six games last fall and caught nine passes for 209 yards and two more scores.
With blitzing being outlawed in this game, the defenses could be playing catch-up, much like the North’s 42-35 win in 2015 that set a series record for total points.
“I think people want to come and see a lot of action, see a lot of points scored,” said South coach Ray Lee (Greenbrier East). “You take out the blitzes in an all-star game, and I think people get their money’s worth — especially offenses that like to get the ball in the air and have dual threats, all that. So you want to make sure [blitzing] is one less thing players have to worry about.”
The North will have Parkersburg South coach Nathan Tanner running its offense, which figures to be wide open. The Patriots averaged exactly 40 passes per game last season, and have their quarterback, Sam Schuler, among the QBs on the North roster. North coach Daran Hayes (North Marion) is giving Tanner full control of his team’s attack.
“It’s always easier for people coming in to take the role and actually be the play caller,” Hays said. “Obviously, we’re not doing everything that he does — it’s just one week [in camp]. But again, the tempo he’s able to play with and the things he’s able to do — get athletes in space. We feel we have a lot of athletes we want to get into space. So I really admire what he’s doing.”
Lee said he wants to get as many of his South players involved as he can in order to make the game memorable for them.
“We want to make sure this is a fun event for every player that’s here,” Lee said. “We’re not going to focus on just one player. You look at having an all-star team, and you have athletes from different schools that have made All-State, and they’re going off and playing college football. But you still have other young men who’s here and you don’t want them to feel left out.
“So we’re not going to focus on just one, two guys to be big playmakers. We want everyone to have a shot at this. They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t dual-threat players who can play. We’re going to utilize everybody and we’re going to use everybody.”