The North had won two straight and six of the last seven contests, although the South maintains a huge 32-18-3 edge in the all-time series. It was played each December from 1934-1955, then resumed in the summer of 1976 through today.
Thundering Herd fans should be encouraged by the play of a number of South All-Stars, who were coached by Chip McMillian of Cabell Midland. Newell will be reporting to Marshall to begin working out with the Herd this summer, as will nearly the entire offensive line of the South team. "We've got a bunch of guys over here that kind of love each other," said the sopping-wet McMillian, who received the Gatorade bath from his players following the game. "We really came together in a week and scored every time we got the football. We just didn't get it enough. The North did a good job of keeping it away from us.
"I said I did two things right this week," said McMillian. "We picked the right players and I definitely picked the right coaches." The South staff included Cabell Midland assistant Butch Sowards and Steve Edwards, Jr. of George Washington, who handled the defense, and Scott Tinsley of Nitro, the offensive coordinator. The North rushed for 144 yards on 36 carries, led by Parker Deem of Ripley. Deem was the North MVP with 12 carries for 70 yards and a touchdown. The Bears also passed 27 times, completing 18, for 170 yards, including a touchdown pass to end the game from QB Andy Leach of Grafton to receiver Josh Brown of Jefferson to round out the scoring.
Led by 6-foot-5, 330 pound Josh Evans of Fayetteville, the first Division I-A scholarship recipient for the Pirates, the South line paved the way for the Cardinals to score on all five possession against the North Bears, and picked up a late safety when the North snapped a punt through the end zone (the South, however, had to kickoff to the North due to rules about leading by over two touchdowns, so the South did not get another possession on the night). Thomas and Newell combined to throw for 14-of-17 passes for 197 yards, while the South rushed for 129 yards on 32 carries, over four yards per carry. The South had only four negative yardage plays, coming in the first two drives. Those drives still led to a 23-yard field goal by Derek Moore of Hurricane and a Newell six-yard touchdown pass to St. Albans tight end Trey Smith for a 10-0 lead.
Evans was line-up alongside of future Thundering Herd linemen and teammates who will walk-on this August: Grant Grishaber (6-4, 300) of Hurricane; Austin Peters (6-0, 215) of Beckley Woodrow Wilson; and 6-foot-7, 270 pound Zach Hensley of Chapmanville. Even center Zach Lanham of Poca (6-1, 230) will attend Marshall, although at this time will not try out for football. "It feels great to get the win tonight and to have played with and against all of these great players," said Evans following the game. "It's awesome to come out with a win."
Evans also addressed the perception that players from the smaller A schools in the state might not be as talented as their AA or AAA teammates. "It's a real good experience, but hopefully I put (that) to rest," said Evans. "There may still be some questions, but I hope I did a decent enough job tonight. It was awesome to be here. Me and Nico are real good friends and now we get to spend the next five years together (at Marshall). "Going from Green and White (the colors of Fayetteville) to Green and White (of the Thundering Herd), that's pretty nice. I've been concentrating on getting in shape (for MU football) the last 16 weeks," said Evans of coming to the Herd this fall.
Newell played the first and third quarters, hitting 8-of-9 passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns. He added 18 yards rushing, on three carries, and opened the game by hitting South Charleston wide receiver Tommy Spurlock for an 18-yard gain. "This week has been great, it's been nothing but fun. I've made a lot of friends I think will be lifelong friends," said the AA All-State player who led the Pioneers to three-straight seasons in the playoffs. "We knew we had a high-powered offense coming into the game and tried to utilize that as much as possible. Our line did great and our backs ran hard, stuff opened up down field and we hit some big plays."
Newell was very diplomatic about how much he enjoyed running the pro-style offense of Nitro's Tinsley, who was very complimentary after the game about how Thomas and Newell picked up the passing game in just one week. "I love Wayne and the Wing-T offense and I wouldn't trade it for nothing…but this has been great! Just getting out here, throwing the ball around to these great receivers…it's a wide open style of play that was fun to play."
Newell's best play of the night was the 35-yard touchdown pass to Nitro's Chris Fulmer, who is headed to Eastern Kentucky. Fulmer gave an outside move to North cornerback Justin Hostetler, son of former WVU QB Jeff and grandson of former Mountaineer coach Don Nehlen, and beat him to the post for a perfect pitch-and-catch score. "Fulmer told me to look off the route and he would be open, late in the first half," said Newell. "I remembered that in the third quarter and we hit it for a big play." Now, the real work begins for Newell as he heads to the MU campus. "I've got to get down (to Marshall) and start lifting weights, and start working out. The fun is over now and the summer is now workout time. Just go down there and see what I can do. It's going to be fun."
Other All-Stars who will attend Marshall University include the South's Chad Clay of Wayne and Jordan Lawson of Capital and the North's John Freels of Berkeley Springs and Brett Traylor of Fairmont Senior. Saturday's game was dedicated to the memory of Coach Mike Linsky, who coached both John Marshall and Duval High Schools, who recently died of cancer. His family was presented a plaque before the game. Linsky coached the North to a 24-20 win in 1993.
Local youngsters who won scholarships included Garry Roland of Wayne; Chad Clay of South Charleston; Daniel Barnes of George Washington; Trey Smith of St. Albans; Grant Grishaber of Hurricane; and Tommy Spurlock of South Charleston, who also had a 24-yard touchdown reception from Thomas and a kickoff return of 37 yards to open the game with the South at nearly midfield.
Rushing - North: Parker Deem/Ripley 12-70 TD; Evan Hewitt/John Marshall 3-30; Tyler Lowers/Williamstown 7-24 TD; Josh Sims/Magnolia 10-24; Josh Brown/Jefferson 1-6. South: Josh Culbertson/Nitro 14-64 TD; Wade Midkiff/Cabell Midland 11-39; Gary Roland/Wayne 3-19; Nico Newell/Wayne 3-18;
Passing - North: Sims 17-11-0, 121; Andy Leach/Grafton 10-7-0 49 TD. South - Newell 9-8-0, 107 TD; Heath Thomas/Huntington 8-6-0, 90.
Receiving - North: J. Brown 5-48 TD; L.C. Jefferson/University 5-43; Josh Dilger/Doddridge County 2-35; Lucas Boyles/Grafton 2-29; Lowers 2-4; Zach Snyder/Magnolia 1-3. South: Chris Fulmer/Nitro 6-89 TD; Tommy Spurlock/South Charleston 4-56 TD; Chase Keefer/George Washington 3-46; Trey Smith/St. Albans 1-6 TD.
TEAM STATS -
First Downs: North-19/South-16.
Rushes: North 36-144 (4.0)/South 32-129 (4.03).
Passing: North 27-18-0, 170/South 17-14-0, 197.
Penalties: North 5-47/South 6-45.
Punts: North 1-49 (Jay Carpenter/Fairmont Sr.)/South 0-0.
Ejections: North - Cody Lucas/Lincoln. South - Tommy Newman/Liberty-Raliegh.