For a time, the Tri-County/L-L League All-Star Football Game, held Friday night at Elden Rettew Stadium at Manheim Central High School, was living up to its billing.
But then, the annual event took an unfortunate turn. With the Lancaster County All-Stars leading the Berks/Lebanon All-Stars 14-0 at halftime, the game was suspended and called following a medical emergency involving a fan in the bleachers.
“We called the coaches and talked about it and pretty much the right thing was probably not to continue,” said Mike Williams, retired Manheim Central football coach and a Manheim Touchdown Club official. “We went and talked to the team and within a short period of time, they came and said we’re closing it down. We had a great crowd and a good football game, but there comes a time when sports take the back seat.”
During the long delay, players from both teams huddled in the center of the field in prayer.
“I’m proud of the coaches and I’m proud of the players for their reaction,” Williams said. “These are kids and they knew what the right thing to do was. So did the head coaches.”
Eschewing the usual north-south format, teams were split between Berks/Lebanon, wearing red and white, and Lancaster County, donned in blue.
Both teams came up empty on long, first-quarter drives. Following a 12-play drive, Berks/Lebanon missed wide left on a 30-yard field goal attempt.
Lancaster broke through following a 10-play drive spanning the first and second quarters. Quarterback Jack Reed of Warwick heaved a 30-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jaevon Parker (Lancaster Catholic), with Parker making a leaping grab.
The touchdown seemed to invigorate the Lancaster All-Stars. Defensive lineman Tyler Hurst (Garden Spot) made back-to-back stops on Berks’ subsequent drive. Luke Hines (Lampeter-Strasburg) and Kellan Murphy (Lancaster Catholic) later teamed on a quarterback sack.
“Coming into this game, I hadn’t played football in a little bit,” Hurst said. “The first drive didn’t look too good but the second drive I unleashed it. It felt like brotherhood a little bit. We’d been practicing for four days but once the blood started flowing and everything, we came together, played like a team. I got their back, they got my back. I had some fun; it’ll be cherished for sure.”
Lancaster added to its lead on its next drive. Quarterback Josh Rudy of Elizabethtown found Elijah Cunningham (Solanco) down the sideline for 30 yards, and Shymere Covington (Manheim Township) ran in from 3 yards out to set the final margin.
The Berks/Lebanon team was led by running back Phoenix Music (Annville-Cleona), who finished with eight carries for 26 yards.
“Something like this, it’s fun because you’re playing with a bunch of other good people and you get show your skill,” Hurst said. “It’s just one last hurrah.”