South Downs North 14-12 In 6th Annual Frank Varischetti All-Star Football Game

(Above photo) Hunter Craddock (99) had a big night on defense for the South.

The South Squad, under Redbank Valley coach Blane Gold and his staff, downed the North 14-12 with a big second half comeback, in the Frank Varischetti All-Star Football Game, on Friday, June 25th, at Frank Varischetti Field in Brockway.

The teams were aligned in the new North-South format this year, as opposed to previous years, where the teams were set up with players from the former Keystone Athletic Conference (KSAC) schools on one team and players from the former Allegheny Mountain League (AML) on the other.

Three Central Clarion Wildcats, quarterback Cal German, defensive lineman Hunter Craddock and linebacker Cutter Boggess all had a hand in the South win.

The contest was a tail of two halves, with the North scoring all of their points in the first half, while holding the South scoreless and vice versa in the second half.

Some Game action

Neither team dented the scoreboard in the first quarter. But the North took over on downs, at the South forty-eight yard line, with 1:33 left in the quarter. The North moved the ball down the field, capping the drive off with a 17-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Zuke Smith from Kane, to St. Marys’ Mitch Reiter, at 11:47 of the second. The two-point conversion run failed and the North led 6-0..

The South stopping a North player short of the end zone

The North held the South to a three-and-out, on the next series and following the punt, they set up at their own thirty-nine. The drive culminated with a 3-yard touchdown pass from from Ridgway’s Ben Briggs to his Elker teammate Dominic Cherry, with 5:44 left in the half. The run for conversion again failed and the North led 12-0.

Recently retired Clarion Area Bobcats and Central Clarion Wildcats’ coach Larry Wiser was honored at halftime, for his many years of coaching in his Hall of Fame career, which included thirty-one years as a head coach and forty-seven years total including his time as an assistant.

Coach Wiser with plaque recognizing his great career, with his wife Annie and son Ryan and Varischetti Game coordinator, Nick Hoffman (on left)

Neither team scored in their opening series of the second half. But the South scored on their second possession, with Brookville’s Jack Krug hitting Karns City’s Nathan Waltman for with a 41-yard touchdown pass, with 3:06 left in the third. Krug hit Waltman again, for the two-point conversion as the South closed the deficit to12-8.

The North was stopped on the next series, when Redbank Valley’s Kobe Bonanno recovered a fumble at the North forty-four yard line. The South marched down the field from there. The game winning points came with thirty-three seconds, left in the third, as German rolled to the right sideline and hit Waltman who broke free in the front-middle of the end zone, for a twenty-three yard touchdown. The two-point conversion run was stopped, but the South now led 14-10, a lead that would hold up through game’s end.

Cal German quarterbacking the South

The North drove inside the South red zone late in the game. But on a fourth and five play from the ten, Craddock sacked the North quarterback for a a ten-yard loss. The South offense ran the clock out from there.

Craddock had a number of tackles including several others for loss. He was in on one that stopped a two-point conversion earlier.

German was 11-of-19 passing for 88 yards, including his touchdown pass. Boggess had a pass defense and also got some good pressure on the quarterback.

Waltman was named the South’s Offensive MVP and Bonanno was named their Defensive MVP. For the North, Smith was named Offensive MVP and Smethport’s Braden Johnson selected as their Defensive MVP.

Andy Close (left and Chris Rossetti did a great job with interviews etc, for

German received the Allegheny Strategy Partners Scholarship, one of seventeen $1,000 dollar scholarships awarded prior to the game. A complete list of scholarship winners is at the bottom of this article.

German had this to say after the game, “(We) definitely faced with a lot of adversity tonight. We didn’t have a great first half, maybe twenty yards total. But we have to put that behind us, like we did at halftime. We got regrouped and we came out in the second half a little bit better.”

Craddock shared, “We came together as a team and battled backed and we came out with the win.” 

Veterans’ Honor Guard raising the Star Spangled Banner and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Flags

The game was played before a large crowd, which included Ben Smith and Mitch Knepp, who participated in last year’s game, representing the Bobcats. The two played their entire career together, including with the Clarion-Limestone Lions through their junior years.

Coach Wiser said, “It was nice, seeing the South come back. It was a good game with them coming back in the second half. I thought our guys contributed to the win, obviously. Congratulations to the South.

“Those were three good kids there (Cal, Hunter, Cutter) and the other two, it was nice getting to coach them (Ben and Mitch).”

After the game (L-R) Coach Wiser, Ben Smith, Cal German, Ryan Wiser, Hunter Craddock, Mitch Knepp, Cutter Boggess

The Varischetti Game is growing nicely, under the coordination of Nick Hoffman and the many volunteers who make this great event possible.

Coach Wiser said, “But congratulations to the Varischetti family for putting this on. We had a packed house today; shows you how much people love the game of football and how much it still means to everybody. I love the sport and what it does teaching kids about having character, to being able to share and to be part of a group.

“The game of football could teach our politicians a lot of lessons. Maybe someday. It’s amazing, a lot of them played the game, but they must have missed some of the great points of the game of team players.”

Coach Wiser said this about receiving the honor at halftime, “I’m obviously (honored), but if you came to my house, you wouldn’t see a plaque on the wall. But I do appreciate it. But more than anything else, I was talking to some of the former coaches that are here, about things over the years.

“I was kind of lucky to grow up in a system and get my feet wet with (former Clarion head coaches) Ray Austin and John Reish, not having to go out burning in the fire right away. It taught me a lot. I don’t think I would have lasted those number of years, without seeing the things that those guys taught me on what they experienced.

“I think Coach Gold is going to be a very good football coach. Every one of them have to survive a little bit of the fire. Once you win one time, everyone expects you to win all the time. It doesn’t always happen that way.

Coach Wiser and Coach Gold

“What I also liked about the game, how about that Johnson kid? One-hundred and thirty pounds. Everybody says, ‘aw, you got to be big.’ It’s what you have here (placing his hand on his heart); it’s what your attitude is to do some of that stuff.”

(Congratulations to Cal, Hunter and Cutter and all the players and coaches in this year’s Frank Varischetti All-Star Game!!! Congratulations to Coach Wiser for your halftime recognition and congratulations to Nick Hoffman and the entire Varischetti Game staff on another quality event!!!!)

(Editor’s note: I was able to pick up my copy of Nick Hoffman’s recently published book “He Was There All The Time,” in which he shares about many individuals who have been there for him throughout his life and helping him along the way. There are valuable life lessons to be garnered throughout the book.)

Nick Hoffman with his recently published book “He Was There All The Time”

(Congratulations to Cal, Hunter and Cutter and all the players and coaches in this year’s Frank Varischetti All-Star Game!!! Congratulations to Coach Wiser for your halftime recognition and congratulations to Nick Hoffman and the entire Varischetti Game staff on, as always, another quality event!!!!)

2021 Frank Varischetti All-Star Game $1,000 Scholarships Winners:

Allegheny Strategy Partners Scholarship: Cal German – Central Clarion

First Commonwealth Bank Scholarship: Kobe Bonanno – Redbank Valley

Farmers National Bank Scholarship: Eli Penny – Union/A-C Valley

NexTier Bank Scholarship: Matt Griffiths – Karns City

S&T Bank Scholarship: Elliot Park – Brookville

Reschini Group Scholarship: Kameron Falgout – Punxsutawney

Waste Management Scholarship: Reese Novosal – Kane

PNC Bank Scholarship: Taro Tanaka – Port Allegany

Rep. Mike Armanini Scholarship: Nick Crisp – Elk County Catholic

Clyde, Ferraro & Co. Scholarship: Alex Bon – Ridgway

Penn Highlands Healthcare Scholarship: Brandon Ishman – Punxsutawney

Varschetti Holdings Scholarship: Ben Glasl – Brockway  

CNB Bank Scholarship: Zaz Bell – Otto-Eldred

Burns White Attorneys at Law Scholarship: Zuke Smith – Kane

Butler County Community College Scholarship: Jacob Kline – St. Marys

Guardian Healthcare Scholarship: Braedon Johnson – Smethport

Staley Capital Advisers Scholarship: Bobby Rumcik – Kane