Future Buckeye Walk-On Stands Out

Bo Delande bailed out the Buckeyes in the fourth quarter Saturday night. The 62nd Ohio North-South Classic at Crew Stadium in Columbus was headed toward another year without a big play from an Ohio State- bound player until the soon-to-be walk-on from nearby Hilliard Davidson broke free over the middle and hauled in a touchdown pass from South Point's Chris Smith that covered 27 yards.

By that point, however, the South was merely piling on. Delande's TD gave his team a 43-7 lead (the extra point was missed) after the South ran out to a 30-0 first-quarter advantage built on the strength of plays made by a slew of never-to-be-Buckeyes.

First there was Centerville's Tyler Replogle, a linebacker who preceded his career as an Indiana Hoosier by returning an interception 10 yards for a touchdown Saturday night.

Next West Chester Lakota West linebacker Alex Kaufman sacked Alliance's Charles Babb in the end zone for a safety.

From there, Kaufman's future Miami (Ohio) teammate Chris Givens took over. The Chillicothe product turned a five-yard out pattern into a 29-yard touchdown reception from Middletown's Skylar Jones. On the South's next possession, Givens out-jumped William Sheeler of Canton McKinley in the end zone for a 27-yard score from the arm of Smith. Jones his headed to Wake Forest, while Smith is bound for Marshall.

The latter touchdown was set up when St. Henry's Andy Puthoff recovered a fumble one play earlier. The former Redskin will soon be a Ball State Cardinal.

The final volley in the South's opening-quarter barrage came again from the defense. Cincinnati Moeller linebacker Greg Jones intercepted a pass from Ryan Ottney of Fremont Ross and the future Michigan State Spartan returned it 26 yards to pay dirt.

In summation, the explosion made South defensive end Solomon Thomas, a Lakota West graduate who will enroll at Ohio State Monday, roughly a .333-hitter in terms of pregame prognostications.

While his declarations at the start of practice that the South would win and "Southwest Ohio will represent" turned out to be true thanks to the plays of Replogle, Kaufman and both Joneses, the Ohio State contingent did not exactly shine like Thomas predicted.

"You can zone in on Cincinnati, so I'm happy for those guys," Thomas said after the game. "I'm happy they did their thing, it's just I've kind of got a bitter taste in my mouth [because I was] wanting to tear stuff up."

Despite Thomas' disappointment, overall sentiment indicated the lack of standout plays from future Buckeyes was simply a product of the quality of players throughout the state.

"These guys on all these teams are all-stars," Delande said. "Some guys are going to Big Ten colleges besides Ohio State, so there's great competition here. They're all going to different levels, but there's some really good players here."

South coach Kevin Fell agreed.

"Ohio State doesn't make too many mistakes," he said of the contingent of future Buckeyes that also included Rocco Pentello of Westerville South on the South squad and Jermale Hines of Cleveland Glenville and Nate Oliver of Lakewood St. Edward for the North.

"They're great kids - they fit right in," Fell said. "First of all, our kids respect a kid going to Ohio State because they all probably wanted to go to Ohio State. Maybe (Greg) Jones didn't because he's going to Michigan State, and Replogle's going to Indiana, but those kids were probably recruited by everybody."

The performance of the group of future Buckeyes as a whole likely would have been more impressive if not for the absence of standouts Brandon Saine of Piqua, Daniel "Boom" Herron of Warren Harding, Dane Sanzenbacher of Toledo Central Catholic and Devon Torrence of Canton South. All three were on the initial game rosters but missed the game because of various extenuating circumstances.

But no matter who they are, the future wearers of those shiny silver helmets are hard to miss.

"Ohio State boys, they definitely have got a little knack to them," Fell said. "We also had Bo Delande walks on, and he plays pretty good football, too. So they're not hurting for guys. But you have to be impressed with guys like Chris Givens. He steps out there on the field the first day of practice and I say, 'He's the best kid we got. I can see it now.'

Givens, selected the game's most valuable player after a six-catch, 123-yard day that included two touchdown catches, said his northern detour to Columbus before heading to Oxford was not about proving himself to anybody. He simply hoped to continue to improve, something he felt he accomplished.

"I just want people to realize some people that go to bigger schools aren't the better players than some of the people who are going to Wayne State or West Liberty," Givens said. "Those guys are sometimes better than the other guys. It's just a lack of exposure."

Before Delande's touchdown catch, the contributions from future Buckeyes consisted mostly of a couple of big hits by Pentello and a nice open-field tackle by Oliver on punt coverage.

Though the North had few stars as it was trampled by a final score of 50-7, Oliver was named his team's defensive MVP. He turned in a pair of eye-catching kick returns, although one was ended abruptly at the North 39-yard line by a hard hit from Pentello.

Fell said Pentello, a former college quarterback slated to play safety at Ohio State, was a bit of an enigma prior to the game because practices were non-contact and they had never seen him in action on the defensive side of the ball.

"All week we're going, 'I don't know how fast he really is,'" Fell said. "But the first big hit of the game was his. The second big hit of the game was his."

Thomas' main contributions were a couple of quarterback hurries. He combined with Greg Jones for a sack but also committed a 15-yard facemask penalty.

"Rocco had some good hits and Nate had some good returns, but me and Jermale, I'm sorry to say, we were average," he said. "We were average players. We both tried hard. We both practiced hard but we were both average players in this game."

The last future Buckeye to win game MVP honors was Angelo Chattams, a wide receiver from Dayton Chaminade-Julienne who helped the South to a 20-7 win in 2001.

Since then MVP honors have gone to Cleveland St. Ignatius quarterback Nate Szep (who was headed to Washington University-St. Louis) in 2002, Columbus Walnut Ridge receiver Ernie Wheelwright (Minnesota) in 2003, Clayton Northmont receiver Ro Grigsby (Kansas State) in 2004, Akron Hoban running back Tyrell Sutton (Northwestern) in 2005 and Mentor Lake Catholic quarterback Rick Stanzi (Iowa) last year.

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