REST EASY, Mercer County coaching fraternity. Joe Dunn played his final scholastic athletic contest Saturday evening.
After wreaking havoc on the area aggregation’s football and basketball teams during this past year’s District 10 playoffs, Girard High’s Dunn is bound for Penn State-Behrend to become a nurse anesthetist and play basketball.
For one series during the latter stages of the 3rd annual North-South All-Star Game, Dunn demonstrated his deadly demeanor.
With the North trailing 27-20 with 7:21 remaining in the 4th frame Dunn directed the North on an 8-play scoring drive, completing 5 of 8 attempts for 75 yards and culminating it with a 3-yard touchdown run. However his attempted go-ahead 2-point PAT pass fell awry, and the South secured victory.
Speaking on behalf of his gridiron counterparts Jim Wildman (Sharon) and Bill Brest (Hickory) and Farrell basketball coach Roland Shannonhouse, South Head Coach Brian Herrick said,
“Oh, my gosh! I shouldn’t have said anything. At halftime — and not that the Smith kid (Corry QB Nate Smith, who was 14 of 33 for 322 yards and 2 TDs) is not a great quarterback — but I was certainly glad to see Dunn at wide-out,” related Herrick. “(Dunn) can hurt you runnin’ and throwin’. He’s just a fantastic athlete.
“They (North) had us on the ropes, but the (South) kids hung in there,” Herrick praised. “I thought at the end we made some plays, we got some heat on the quarterback. I thought (Reynolds’) Kyle McConnell, (Greenville’s) Justin Reynolds, (Sharon’s) Dan Vanderslice and (Grove City’s) Warren Marlowe, our defensive ends, really did a nice job of containing and gettin’ some heat.”
“I respect the Mercer County teams because they’re tough, hard-hittin’ kids. It is a good thrill playing against them ’cause they give you good competition, and they make you work for what you get, so it gives me a good feeling,” related the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Dunn, a mult-sport athlete who also competed in all three jumrps for the Yellow Jackets’ track & field team.
Dunn, despite various “football options” from area NCAA Division II and III schools, will devote his full attention to becoming a 2-guard/small forward for Behrend.
“I realized that basketball is my dream, and decided to go with that, and I’m pretty excited about that decision,” Dunn related, admitting, “but it was nice playin’ football again.”
Dunn’s decision to enter nursing emanates from the heart: “Really, I just like helpin’ people, so it was either becoming a counselor or being a nurse anesthetist, and that’s what I decided to go with,” he related.
ä Greenville quarterback Matt Jones was chosen as the South squad’s offensive MVP, whileWilmington strong safety Josiah Bloise was the defensive MVP. For the North, Gen. McLane wide-out Zach Fox (8 receptions for 153 yards, 2 rushes for 19 yards) and Dunn’s Girard teammate Brian Divido, a linebacker, were the respective offensive and defensive MVPs.
˝ Coaches of the Year were recognized, including Brendan Hathaway (Slippery Rock), Brest and Herrick.
ä Jones, 2 days after pitching in Youngstown for the Greenville A’s baseball team, turned in a 7-for-13, 173-yard, 3-touchdown passing performance. Having played his last scholastic contest, Jones will head to the Univesity of Mount Union as a pre-med major and pitch for the Purple Raiders.
“This was my last game — I know some of these other guys are going other places (to play collegiate football) — but I was just lookin’ to come out, play my last game and have a little fun. It’s not easy when you lose in the playoffs (16-14 in the D-10 Class AA semifinals to Dunn, Divido and Girard), but this is a nice way to end it, go out with a win,” Jones explained.
Jones’ Trojans’ teammate, Tyler Fattman, could easily have been selected for MVP honors, also. Fattman finished with 3 receptions for 30 yards (18-yard diving TD catch) and tossed a 45-yard flea-flicker — Herrick’s Offensive Coordinator Mike Menold dubbed the play “Disney” — to Hickory’s DeQuan Lewis. Fattman also punted.
In the game program’s bio it was noted Fattman’s career QB rating was 177 percent, meaning he threw for a TD virtually every time he attempted a pass.
“(Fattman) threw the ball all week and was ready to go in a ‘Wild-cat’ situation if we had to,” Herrick related. “I thought Matt did a fantastic job!”
On Fattman’s fling to Lewis, Herrick related, “It’s a ‘Jet’ and a double-pass. We actually ran it in the last all-star game we coached (2007); we were wide-open, but overthrew it. But Tyler keeps reminding me every week what his quarterback rating is — altways through the roof — and he put it right on the money like he always does, and DeQuan did a nice job coming back and getting the ball.”
ä Admittedly, I’m not a proponent of summertime scholastic all-star football games. I’ve seen at least one end prematurely due to a melee, another to an electrical storm, and recall a young man’s collegiate career jeopardized by a knee injury sustained in June.
However Saturday’s 3rd annual game, conducted by the West Penn and Northwest Football Coaches Associations at Thiel College’s Alumni Stadium was a win-win for all.
“It was a great experience!” Herrick gushed. “These are the most polite ... they’re great kids, and their parents should be very proud of them, the way they carry themselves and the way they act. We had a great week of practice, and it was a lot of fun.
“It was competitive, and nobody got a major injury — we had a couple ankle sprains — but that’s the only thing I worry about: These kids are goin’ on to play in college, and I just don’t want them to get hurt, and I’m pleased that we got through it,” Herrick summarized.
ä Brest, Herrick Reynolds’ Josh Mull and Allegheny-Clarion Valley’s Brad Dittman (South) and their North counterparts, Blaine Gold (Franklin), Jim Brinling (Fairview), Matt LaVerde (Oil City) and Scott White (Strong Vincent) did a tremendous job in organizing and conducing the event to give the players one last scholastic memory.
The organization awarded $500 scholarships to Bloise, Karns City’s Dan Filges, Fort LeBoeuf’s Nathan Conti and Corry’s Ryan Morris.
ä Thanks to Thiel’s Ed Topoleski and William Becque for their statitistical assistance, and for their year-round efforts in promoting the Tomcats.
˝ Also, unbeknown to many, Saturday’s officiating crew — Jack Thorn (referee), Will White (umpire), Joe Lombardi (head linesman), Jeff Osborne (line judge) and Steve Hoover (back judge) donated their time and efforts to the game. The Mercer County chapter also annually awards a scholarship.
ä Regarding the opportunity to coach some of his Greenville gridders (also including Luke Houpt, Trey VanAken, Randall Peabody, Sawyer Miller) one, last time, Herrick concluded, “Boy, I love those kids! They’ve done a lot for our program over the last four years, and a lot of them are four-year starters. It was a joy, a pleasure. It was my turn, and I’m very pleased that I got to do that.”
Ed Farrell is assistant sports editor for The Herald