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Coach Wiser’s West Squad Wins 2019 East/West Game (05/07/19)

(Photo: Coach Wiser with his Western PA charges on the sidelines of 2019 PFSCA East/West Game)

After the final gun of the 2019 Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association (PSFCA) East/West Game, Clarion Area’s Larry Wiser hinted that this would probably be his last time coaching in a statewide all-star game. If that is the case, he sure went out in style, with his West Squad winning the highest scoring affair in the game’s history, defeating the East 41-35, at Altoona’s Mansion Park, on Sunday, May 5th.

Coach Wiser with his nephew defensive tackle Carmen Barone

This was the Western Pennsylvania team’s fourth win in the last five years and their eighth win overall. The East now lead’s the series by just two games, 10-8.

The East opened the scoring at 10:16 of the first quarter, with Seth Degree (West Catholic) hauling in a nineteen yard pass from Villanova recruit, Matt O’Conner from West Catholic. Manheim Township’s Jack Rodenberger kicked the point after giving the East an early 7-0 lead.

Carlisle’s Caleb Richwine, who is headed to Eastern Michigan put the West on the board with a thirty-eight yard field goal, at 5:46 of the first, cutting the deficit to 7-3. Both kickers were perfect on the day.

The second quarter was a real shootout, with each team scoring three touchdowns. The West took a 10-7 lead, when Maine recruit, Joe Fagnano (Williamsport) followed a great line surge up the middle for a one yard score, at 10:35. The West intercepted a pass and set up at the East 32. On the first play from scrimmage, Penn State recruit, Tommy Friberg (State College) hit a wide open Stone Huffman (Cumberland Valley) at about the ten and he ran it in, moving the West’s lead to 17-7, at 8:55.

Coach Wiser with his Western PA charges on the sidelines of 2019 PFSCA East/West Game

O’Conner hooked up with Harrisburg’s Rynell Gantt on a twenty-six yard scoring strike, at 4:07, to move the East to within three, at 17-14. Fagnano hit a wide open, Rob Rideout (York) at about the East 20, and Rideout went in untouched for a sixty-five yard score. With the PAT, the West’s lead was ten once again, 24-14, at 2:49.

But two quick East scores, both on throws from O’Conner, would move them ahead by four 28-24 heading into the half, the first a twenty-two yarder to North Penn’s Shamar Edwards, at 1:17 and the second, with just five seconds left, to West Catholics Seth Degree.

The West retook the lead at 6:37 of the third. Fagnano hit Eastern York’s Demonte Martin, who got behind the defender in the back left of the end zone for a 23 yard score giving the West a 31-28 lead. And then with 2:41 left in the quarter, York’s Dayjur Stewart, an Illinois State recruit, had a fourteen yard touchdown run, moving the West lead to 38-28.

A twenty-three yard Richwine field goal, with 8:56 left in the game, put the West up 41-28. The East closed out the scoring at 4:37 with a five yard touchdown run by Liberty’s Nasir Legree, setting the 41-35 final.

The West outgained the East 375-205, including a 205-1 edge in rushing.

Stewart, the West MVP, had 124 yards on twelve carries. Friberg and Fagnano, sharing West quarterback duties, threw for 93 and 77 yards respectively. York High’s Rob Rideout had 83 receiving yards.

East MVP, O’Conner led the East completing 6 of 13 passes for 186 and four scores. Degree and Gantt had 80 and 78 receiving yards respectively.

Coach Wiser felt the West came together well, despite limited practice time, “I wasn’t sure how everything was going to come about, the way you had to prepare for this game. We had two Sunday practices and then we practiced yesterday. We were missing about three or four kids with the prom and so forth. So it was kind of an interesting way to prepare for a football game, especially for players that you haven’t seen for a while. I’m obviously very pleased with the outcome of the game.”

The West mentor had high praise for his assistant coaches. We had a tough second quarter, giving up some passes. But boy we came back. I’ve got to give my defensive coordinator Jon LeDonne (Penn Hills) and Don Fyfe (Shade) the defensive backs coach. They did a nice job, getting the guys back in the game. And Brad Orlando (McDowell), Greg Page (Homer-Center) did a really nice job. And Ron Butschle, the new Seneca Valley coach did a great job.

In typical Clarion Bobcat fashion, Coach Wiser couldn’t forget the guys up front, who were instrumental in paving the way for 205 rushing yards, while limiting the opposition to one yard. “We had a nice line. We were really small on defense, but those two kids… David Tomb (from Jersey Shore) is going to Lycoming to play for my brother; he’s tough. And the defensive end from Penn Hills, Armand Gustave, we call him money; he was just something else.”

“And what can I say about our kicker Caleb Richwine, (who is going to Eastern Michigan)!” In addition to his big field goals and being perfect on extra points, he had some booming kick offs.

The 2019 East/West Game was a family affair for Coach Wiser. His son Ryan was on the sidelines with him. And in what seemed to really be ‘icing on the cake, he got to coach his nephew Cameron Barone (Loyalsock) a Saint Francis recruit, who was one of his big guys, playing defensive tackle for the West (a point that Coach Wiser was very excited and proud to point out).

And the East/West Game has been a bit of a Bobcat “family affair” also. Coach Wiser feels that it is special that he’s coached in the East/West Game and had players in this game , “We’ve had a couple of good guys who have been to this (Kyle Cathcart in 2002 – didn’t play due to injury and Nate McClaine in 2004). I was hoping that last year, we would have had Zak Bauer (2018 alternate) getting into this game. He was down to that final list of getting into the game.”

This is the third time that Coach Wiser, who is a member of the PSFCA Hall of Fame, has been involved in one of the Commonwealth’s two statewide all-star games. He was and assistant on the West staff in the 2010 East/West Game. Then in 2015, he had the choice of being the West head coach in the East/West Game or being an assistant in the Big 33 Classic (Pennsylvania vs Maryland). After some debate he chose the Big 33 (which won that game).

When asked whether it was more satisfying to coach in the 2015 Big 33 or to be the West head coach this year, he said, “Oh, today was real satisfying. This is probably the last all-star game, on the state level, that I’ll do. And the kids were really great. I can’t say enough about them. That’s what it really comes down to, a group of guys that all get together and work from there.”

And his one statement as we talked after the game, put a real exclamation point on it all, “But it’s nice to football in May, isn’t it?”

(Congratulations to Coach Wiser, son Ryan, wife Annie and daughter Morgan, and nephew Cameron, as well as the whole West Team, their East counterparts and all those involved in working on this great, great game!!!!)