The South raced out to a 30-0 lead after a single quarter and held on for a 50-7 win in the 62nd-annual Ohio North-South Classic at Columbus Crew Stadium. The win snapped a two-game winning streak in the series for the North and provided the largest margin of victory in the history of the game.
“I was a little surprised,” South safety Rocco Pentello said of the outcome. “I knew they were going to have a hard time scoring on us, a hard time moving the ball just because our front seven was so dominant. We barely had to do anything.”
Five future Buckeyes, four of the scholarship variety, participated in the contest. Three –Pentello of Westerville South, West Chester Lakota West defensive end Solomon Thomas and walk-on running back Bo Delande of Hilliard Davidson – were on the winning side. The North team featured defensive back Nate Oliver of Lakewood St. Edward and linebacker Jermale Hines of Cleveland Glenville.
Pentello and Thomas were solid for a South defense that allowed minus-4 yards of offense, minus-95 on the ground. Thomas had two tackles, assisted in a sack and had two hurries, while Pentello didn’t have to do much. The one-time quarterback had two tackles and showed his physical prowess when he drilled Alan Vanderink of Crestwood on an incomplete swing pass and when he dropped Oliver on a kick return.
“It was fun,” Pentello said of his hit on Oliver. “I just saw an opening and just took it and got a big hit on him. It was all fun. I helped him up and said ‘Good job.’”
“We didn’t hit anybody all week, so Rocco couldn’t really show us what he does,” said South head coach Kevin Fell of Wapakoneta, who will be moving on to Amherst Steele for 2007. “When we started to play the game, he just rocked guys.”
Oliver had two kick returns – one to the 27 and one to the 39 – while making three tackles, .5 for loss. Hines had an equal line with his tackle for loss setting the South back 8 yards.
One Buckeye who showed his stuff was Delande. The tailback who led Davidson to the Division I state title this past year was held quiet until catching a 27-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
“That was fun to line up at wideout and be able to run a route,” said Delande, who made his mark on the ground at Davidson, including five touchdowns in the state title game. “(Oliver) was covering me and he jumped some other route so I changed it up and went across the middle.”
The South could do no wrong in the first quarter on the way to dropping the North to 36-23-3 in the history of the series. The North’s first offensive play – which came after South quarterback Chris Smith of South Point was intercepted at the 2-yard line – was an interception by Centerville’s Tyler Replogle that he returned 12 yards for a touchdown from the arm of Fremont Ross’ Ryan Ottney. Replogle is a future Indiana Hoosier.
The North’s next possession ended just as badly, as quarterback Charles Babb of Alliance was sacked in the end zone by Thomas’ high school teammate Alex Kaufman for a safety. The ensuing drive also ended in a score when Chris Givens of Chillicothe took a fourth-down screen pass from Middletown’s Skylar Jones, evaded Northwestern-bound David Arnold of Copley and raced 29 yards for a score.
Givens, who is bound for Miami (Ohio), skied over William Sheeler of Canton McKinley to pull in a 27-yard touchdown from Smith to make it 23-0 with 53 seconds left in the quarter.
The massacre was complete when linebacker Greg Jones of Cincinnati Moeller, who will attend Michigan State, deflected an Ottney pass, snatched it out of the air and returned it 26 yards for a score with 6 seconds left in the first.
The North ended the first half with just two first downs, both because of penalties, one of them a 15-yard facemask penalty on Thomas.
Elyria’s Dan Noble brought down a 47-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 30-7 early in the third quarter, the last gasp for the North. The South countered later in the third when Ottney was picked off for the fourth time, this one a pressured sidearm pitch that was returned for a 26-yard touchdown by Josh Copeland of Fairborn. The fourth-quarter scoring was started by Delande’s catch and ended a 70-yard touchdown run by Jordan Jarrell of Pickerington Central with 1:46 to play.
Givens was named the game MVP after catching six passes for 123 yards and his two scores.
“It’s one of my best performances as a high school player,” Givens said.
Smith (5-6, 111 yards, two touchdowns) was the South’s offensive MVP while Copeland took the defensive honor with two picks. On the North, Oliver took the defensive honor while Noble took offensive laurels.
Pentello had three punt returns for 23 yards and also fumbled one that the South recovered.