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Local all-stars make a mark in big game

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Posted on November 23, 2009 |
By Andy Kirkaldy



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VERGENNES UNION HIGH School senior Gary Grant, who plays football for Winooski, takes a handoff from quarterback Max Librizzi during the annual North-South game in Middlebury Saturday. Grant plays football for Winooski. Independent photo/Trent Campbell

MIDDLEBURY — Fans of offensive football got a treat on Saturday at Middlebury College’s Alumni Stadium, when two teams of Vermont high school senior standouts — including five local student-athletes — combined for 100 points in the ninth annual North-South All-Star Football Game.

When the ball stopped flying, the South team with two Otter Valley players defeated the North team with one Vergennes and two Middlebury athletes, 61-39.

How much offense was there in a game in which both teams chose to use shotgun formations and air it out? The losing team had a quarterback — Essex’s Max Librizzi, set to play for Holy Cross next fall — who completed 29 out of 46 passes for 446 yards and six touchdowns.

Librizzi shared time with Spaulding’s Zach Dessureau, but Librizzi took over full-time in the third quarter when Dessureau was hurt. Critically, Librizzi also tossed three interceptions, none more damaging than the one grabbed by OV middle linebacker Andrew Piper.

That pick came with 3:03 to go in the third period and the South leading, 34-26, and the North with a first down at the South 34. Piper returned the interception 15 yards to the South 40, and Mount Anthony quarterback Keegan Corbett (21 for 31, 358 yards, four TDs) then led the South on a scoring march that pushed the lead to 41-26 at the end of three quarters.

Piper dropped back (game rules didn’t allow linebackers to blitz), probably aware Librizzi had been throwing many slant patterns to Essex teammate Kevin Jenko. The ball went right to Piper.

“I knew we had to make a big play or a big stop on defense, and it was quick thing,” Piper said. “It happened so fast I didn’t even know it was coming until it was in my hands.”

Piper made seven tackles, while his OV teammate Casey Babcock, a defensive back, made one tackle and broke up a pass in the fourth quarter.

For the North, Tiger senior Ryan Foley picked off two passes in the first half, and Jimmy Danyow acquitted himself well at right tackle, both in pass protection and by clearing the path for U-32’s Elias LaCount to convert on a fourth-and-one play.

With Librizzi throwing the ball, VUHS senior Gary Grant, a 1,000-yard rusher for Winooski this fall, carried the ball twice for 12 yards and caught a pass for four yards. Grant — listed generously at 5-8, 165 — also blocked well, at one point knocking a 200-pound linebacker four yards backward on a sweep.

The North took a quick 13-0 lead behind the first two Librizzi scoring passes, one a 12-yarder to Essex teammate Pat Nee (7 catches, 3 TDs), and the second a 19-yard screen pass to St. Albans’ Matthew Wainscott.

Corbett, who made a strong case to join Librizzi as a Shrine Bowl QB, led the North on a 78-yard march late in the first quarter, completing several passes to Rutland tight end Leo Cohen. Brattleboro’s David Freeman ran in from six yards out to cap the drive, and it was 13-7 after one.

Corbett led a game-tying drive in the second quarter, capping it with a five-yard toss to Rutland’s Ricky Lantman. Woodstock’s Sam Stockwell tossed the first of his two TD passes on the next South possession, a nine-yarder to Lantman, and the South led, 20-13. The big play came just before that, a 93-yard toss from Stockwell to Springfield’s Brandon Boyle on third-and-eight.

Librizzi hit Jenko on an 11-yard slant to cut the lead to 20-19 at 1:14 of the second quarter. But then Corbett hit Lantman in the left flat, and Lantman spun away from a tackler and raced the rest of the way for a 69-yard score, and the South led at the break, 27-19.

Freeman scored on a short run after Corbett moved the South down the field to open the second half, and it was 34-19.

Librizzi led the North on a 90-yard, four-play drive capped with a nine-yard toss to Nee at 5:50, and it was 34-26. The South then stalled and had to punt, and Librizzi and the North came back on the field and reached the South 34 — and Piper’s pick changed the game’s complexion. Corbett and the South moved down the field, and he hit Lantman for the score that made it 41-26 after three.

In the fourth quarter, Librizzi completed a 38-yard bomb to Nee on a fourth-and-one play that made it 41-32 at 12:08, but the two-point conversion failed. Later, Librizzi tossed to Jenko for one more 30-yard score.

For the South, Corbett added a TD pass to Freeman, Stockwell threw a 47-yard strike to Boyle, and Freeman capped his big day with a late 77-yard run.

Afterward, Piper summed up the day.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “You meet a lot of the guys you think are your enemies, and they’re just as nice as you are, and you go out and play as a team, and we got a big win.”

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