Bucks defeated Montco 44-6 in Thursday night’s Lions All-Star game. Photos provided courtesy of Kim Supko and Geanine Jamison. Check back for a gallery of photos.
By Ed Morrone
DOYLESTOWN — On Thursday night on the campus of Delaware Valley University, more than 70 high school football players gathered for one final game.
Most of them came from schools in the Suburban One League. Many will play the game collegiately, while for some, it would be the final time they ever put on a helmet, shoulder pads and mud-caked cleats.
The final score of the 4th Annual Bucks vs. Montco Lions All-Star may have read 44-6, a runaway victory for the boys wearing gold Bucks County jerseys, but what the scoreboard read was a mere afterthought. What mattered on this night was many things: high school teammates playing one final game with guys they’ve known most of their lives, and also an opportunity for fierce SOL rivals to join the same side, transitioning from enemies to comrades for one evening of football. And of course, it was one final showcase for committed players to show their colleges they made the right choice in recruiting them, while those with undecided plans hoped one final herculean effort might catch the eye or ear of a passing scout.
One of those undecided players, Truman running back Enzo Poulson, showed what he had to offer as one of the night’s shining offensive stars. The 5-foot-7 Poulson, whose small stature is compensated for by unlimited grit, rushed for 109 yards and two scores. The Truman senior isn’t sure what the future holds, so for him, much like many others, the biggest thrill of this All-Star showcase is that he got to participate and show his stuff.
“It was so much fun,” Poulson said. “We all played each other during the season, then we met for this game and it all just clicked together. I got to do some things in this spread offense that I didn’t get to in the Wing T at Truman.
“A game like this is an experience. Some schools might not have all the pieces: some might not have big lines, some might not have the backs, some don’t have the receivers, while others don’t have a great quarterback. Tonight we got to see how fun it was when all of those pieces come together.”
With so many players with collegiate plans on tap, many university programs had multiple players represented, which added another neat wrinkle to the game. For example, Bucks teammates Jonathan Post (wide receiver, Pennridge) and Oleh Manzek (RB/LB, Neshaminy) were on the same side, while Caleb Mead (RB/DB, Upper Moreland) suited up for Montco. All three will be taking their football talents to the University of New Hampshire’s Division-I program in the fall.
All three made impacts in this one. Post hauled in two touchdown grabs of 29 and 17 yards from his high school teammate Zak Kantor (Widener), as well as a two-point conversion reception. Manzyk rumbled 23 yards on one carry and played for a defensive unit that forced three turnovers and allowed just 70 yards of total offense. Mead, meanwhile, may have been on the losing side, but he picked off a pass, had three rushes for 22 yards and a dazzling 27-yard reception that was Montco’s longest offensive play of the evening.
After the game, the three future teammates posed for a picture and wondered aloud at the trio’s potential at New Hampshire, where former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly was an offensive assistant for more than a decade.
“When Caleb got that pick, I was right behind him and I just turned around because I had no shot to catch him,” Post said with a laugh. “He was gone. It was really fun watching him play out there. I think all three of us will bring hard work and energy to New Hampshire.”
“I think you got to see what all three of us have in us tonight,” Manzyk added. “We got to compete with and against each other one more time at the high school level, and with these guys here, we just have a really explosive freshmen class coming in.”
Mead, meanwhile, was not bashful in offering his predictions for New Hampshire’s 2019 season.
“Colonial Athletic Association champs,” he said. “It’s just so exciting seeing my future teammates ball out. It shows we have a strong class, and we can’t wait to get up there and hopefully all get playing time early on. All three of us really want to improve the UNH program the best that we can.”
One of the neatest aspects of the Bucks-Montco game is that it allows former rivals to become teammates for an evening. However, another component that shouldn’t be overlooked is that for many high school teammates, Thursday represented one final time to be on the same team.
For Kantor and Post, the opportunity meant everything. Both of Post’s TD grabs started in Kantor’s right arm, and the quarterback, bound for Widener University, threw for 176 yards and three scores in the game.
“Honestly, it was really fun all around,” Kantor said. “It was one more night to play with some of the kids I’ve known and played with since I was really young. And then you get to meet some new guys too…just a great overall experience.”
Other major standouts for Bucks on offense were Central Bucks East wideout Chris Lochetta, bound for Ithaca College, who caught four passes for 73 yards and a touchdown; Lochetta’s teammate and CB East quarterback Evan O’Donnell, a Catholic University commit, threw for 72 yards, ran for 18 more and a touchdown and threw a two-point conversion pass; and Neshaminy running back Ryan O’Connor (Moravian), who rushed for 77 yards and was named Bucks County’s Offensive MVP.
Mead won the Offensive MVP award for Montco.
Despite the fact that Bucks scored the final 44 points of the game, there were plenty of defensive stalwarts on both sides. Council Rock South’s Matthew Checchia (West Chester) took Defensive MVP honors for Bucks in large thanks due to a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown that put Bucks up 26-6 before halftime. Truman defensive teammates Gabe Gipli (East Stroudsburg) and Deondre Winton also had picks for Bucks.
Chris Edwards-Smalls (Lincoln University) from Wissahickon was Montco’s Defensive MVP. In fact, Edwards-Smalls gave Montco a 6-0 advantage, its only lead of the game, less than two minutes into the game when he recovered a fumbled punt and returned it 30 yards for his team’s only score of the game.
The winners of the game’s Sportsmanship Awards were Central Bucks South lineman Yuriy Hryckowian (Slippery Rock) for Bucks, while Springfield wideout Carter Stepney (Widener) took home the honor for Montco.
Bucks All Stars 12 14 18 0 - 44
Montco All Stars 6 0 0 0 - 6
M: Chris Edwards-Smalls (Wissahickon) 30 fumble return (kick failed)
B: Jonathan Post (Pennridge) 29 pass from Zak Kantor (Pennridge) (kick failed)
B: Enzo Poulson (Truman) 19 run (kick failed)
B: Evan O’Donnell 2 run (pass failed)
B: Matthew Checchia (Council Rock South) 31 interception return (Evan O’Donnell pass to Jonathan Post 2-point conversion)
B: Chris Lochetta (Central Bucks East) 42 pass from Zak Kantor (kick failed)
B: Jonathan Post 17 pass from Zak Kantor (kick failed)
B: Enzo Poulson 1 run (kick failed)