Tim Smith, Robert Kennedy lead West to victory in all-star football game

Sunday, May 6, 2018 | 7:57 PM

ALTOONA — Tim Smith had an open field in front of him but not enough gas in the tank. He was caught from behind and dragged down 4 yards short of the end zone.

“I wasn't in condition for this one,” the Penn Hills senior said with a big smile. “Next time, I'll be ready when I get the call.”

Smith might not have reached the end zone in a steady rain Sunday afternoon at Mansion Park Stadium, but he turned in three big plays that set up touchdowns as his WPIAL-laden West team prevailed 28-25 in the 17th Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association East West All-Star Game.

A pair of 35-yard receptions by Smith led to first-quarter scores, and his 42-yard bolt in the third quarter set up a 4-yard scoring run by Jeannette's Robert Kennedy that turned out to be the deciding points.

Smith was named the West MVP, rushing for a game-high 90 yards and catching a game-best four passes.

“This means a lot, because, at first, I wasn't selected for this game. It's definitely a dream come true,” Smith said.

Smith formed an explosive tandem with Kennedy, who had a 31-yard run and a 54-yard kickoff return as the West triumphed for the third time in four years to cut the East's lead in the all-time series to 11-6.

“We wanted to win badly,” Kennedy said. “I want to praise our offensive linemen. They were really good.”

The West rushed for 142 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry, scoring as many points — 21 — in the first 14 minutes as the last three East-West winners scored the entire game. Bethel Park defensive lineman Gavin Vargesko helped, scooping up a Yahmir Wilkerson fumble and running 13 yards for a score that made it 21-7 West with 10 minutes, 26 seconds left in the second quarter.

“Maybe I should have been playing fullback,” Vargesko said, chuckling. “I saw the ball on ground, and I just picked it up and made my way in. It was nice to score for once.

“It feels great to win. This is definitely the crowning achievement on my high school career.”

The East managed to pull to within three on Wilkerson's 1-yard plunge with 2:45 to go, but Cam Suman of Penn-Trafford made a diving catch for 10 yards on third-and-5 that allowed the West to move the chains and run out the clock.

Pine-Richland's Eric Kasperowicz pulled out all the stops in the first half coaching the West. The first drive culminated with a play evocative of the most recent Super Bowl, with end John Varadzel (North Allegheny) taking a pitch against the grain and tossing it to Garret Fairman (Thomas Jefferson) for an 8-yard touchdown.

“It was fun. We drew it up, and it was an option thing,” Varadzel said. “I was supposed to run, but I stepped back and threw it to my great receiver in the end zone.”

Smith was surprised that he had 151 yards from scrimmage.

“That's a lot. In high school, I really didn't have that many rushes. I was more of a DB. It felt good,” he said. “I was down for anything to help get us a ‘W.' ”

Abraham Lincoln's Sam Karr was the MVP for the East, rushing for 72 yards on five carries and scoring on a 24-yard run. Selinsgrove's Logan Leiby completed his first six passes for the West, finishing 7 of 10 for 123 yards to go with a 1-yard touchdown run.

Phil Cmor is a freelance writer.

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