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June 15, 2014

CORY ISENBERG | Changes made to Lantzy game

— I’ve whined and pleaded with the Lantzy committee for years, begging for an earlier start to the annual showcase of gridiron greatness.

My wish has finally been granted.

The 44th Ken Lantzy Finest 40 All-Star football game, which will be on Friday at Greater Johnstown’s Trojan Stadium, is slated for a 7 p.m. start.

The pool group of reporters, including me, who will cover the game on Friday, all thank you.

“We moved the game up because The Tribune-Democrat recommended that,” joked Lantzy assistant executive director Eber Verhovsek. “We think the earlier start will help get people out of there a little earlier. There are a lot of young kids that go to the game and we will get people out of there at a reasonable time.”

South coach Bob Landis of Somerset says he doesn’t think the time change will have much of an impact on the players.

“It’s the same routine that most of these kids have had throughout their careers, and they’ve played how many games to this point?” Landis said. “It’s just a matter of starting your pregame a half-hour earlier.”

The game was moved from its Saturday night spot just two years ago.

“The move to Friday has worked out,” Verhovsek said. “We found out that because the game is played in June, we are not in competition with other high school sports, so moving it from Saturday to Friday made it easier for the game-week schedule. Most high school games are played on Friday, so it won’t be very different for most of the players.”

North coach Greg Page of Homer-Center said that it helped compact the schedule.

“I think this makes it more cost-effective for the committee with the dorms at UPJ and things like that, and Friday night at 7 o’clock, that’s Western Pennsylvania football, isn’t it?” Page said.

The date of the game has also been pushed back a week.

“We decided to go to the later week because of school graduations,” Verhovsek said. “Some schools that had a lot of snow days didn’t actually have their graduations until last week so those young men would have missed some of this week, so this worked out. Also, we are now not in competition with the Sunnehanna Amateur and we’re before Thunder in the Valley.”

The field game itself has also undergone some tweaks.

“This year we adopted a different defense for the Ken Lantzy game,” Verhovsek said. “The defense will be in a 4-3 front with man coverage in the secondary. We adopted that because the East-West game and the Big 33 switched to that format, and in order to stay in line with the other Pennsylvania all-star games, we decided to switch. When the Ken Lantzy game started, we played a 5-2 defense with two safeties like the Big 33. As the game has changed and evolved, most of the all-star games have gone to the 4-3 man coverage and that’s what we’ve gone to now.”

Page said teams are going to have to cover.

“Both sides are going to have to realize they have to get people that can cover receivers,” the Wildcats coach said. “It’s all man to man. You can only rush your front four, so you’ll have your backers dropping into coverages, but your four defensive backs have to lock up on four of their receivers. It’s going to be a challenge for both sides because it’s the first year with the rule change and I think it’s designed to open the game up more.”

Landis says the players involved in the game are the best in the area and should be unphased by the game’s new wrinkles.

“They’ll adapt to what they need to do, whether they played a 4-3 before or not, and they’ll go out and execute on Friday,” the Golden Eagles coach said.

Another rule change that has been instituted is that the offense cannot start off in an empty set.

“You have to snap the ball with a quarterback and a running back in the backfield,” Verhovsek said.

Verhovsek thinks that the rule changes will lead to more scoring.

“I think the game will be even more exciting,” Verhovsek said. “You will see lots of scoring and the ball being thrown a lot because of how the situation goes.”

The North defeated the South 41-7 last year.

Holding a clinic: One of the anticipated activities during the Lantzy week is the youth football clinic held on Wednesday.

“A few years ago we went aggressively after the youth leagues, particularly those in the Greater Johnstown area, and we promoted the youth clinic,” Verhovsek said. “It has been great for the players of the Ken Lantzy game. They get to be involved with coaching the younger kids, who really look up to the players. When we started promoting it, we went from maybe 20 kids to well over a hundred. It’s been a great program.”

This year’s clinic is set for 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Trojan Stadium.

If the weather does not cooperate, the clinic will move into the gymnasium.

All information on the Ken Lantzy game can be found on the website:

Eastern sweep: It’s official.

Western Pennsylvania schools were not the best in baseball or softball this season.

In the eight PIAA contests played on Friday, eastern teams won all of them.


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