Dozens of area football all-stars will get their final chance to showcase their wares at the high school level on Friday when the North wages battle with the South in the 44th Ken Lantzy Finest 40 All-Star game at Trojan Stadium on the campus of Greater Johnstown High School.
A pair of coaches that led their respective schools to great heights in 2013 will lead the all-star squads in the annual game with Somerset’s Bob Landis coaching the South and Homer-Center’s Greg Page patrolling the North’s sideline.
Last season, the North trounced the South 41-7.
With a new batch of all-stars and two first-time Lantzy game head coaches, the excitement was evident with both Landis and Page during Sunday’s picnic at Peoples Natural Gas Park.
“It’s a real honor to be a part of this game and what it was established for,” said Landis, who led Somerset to a 10-2 mark and a trip to the Districts 5-6-8-9 subregional championship game. “It’s a fantastic honor. I’m glad we’re here. It’s gonna be a great week, the weather is supposed to be good. It’s a great opportunity and experience for these kids and something they’ll have with them for the rest of their lives.”
Page, who led Homer-Center to its first District 6 Class A title since 1994 and a trip to the PIAA Class A quarterfinals, also respects the game’s tradition while preparing his squad.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Page said. “It’s a reflection of your coaching peers, certainly it’s a huge credit to our assistant coaches and players at Homer-Center, who led us to an outstanding season.”
Page is tasked with coaching the North squad, which builds its roster with athletes from Bedford, Bellwood-Antis, Bishop Carroll, Bishop Guilfoyle, Blairsville, Cambria Heights, Central Cambria, Chestnut Ridge, Everett, Forest Hills, Glendale, Homer-Center, Marion Center, Northern Bedford, Northern Cambria, Penn Cambria, Penns Manor, Portage, Purchase Line and Tussey Mountain.
Joining Page on the sidelines are Homer-Center assistants Matt Rodkey and Mike Arone, new Bishop Carroll coach Joe Ridgeley, Penns Manor’s Eric Misko, Central Cambria coach Bill Corrente and Forest Hills assistant Kevin Marabito, who was twice an assistant at Laurel Valley under legendary Rams coach Jerry Page while also taking on head coaching jobs at Ferndale, Penns Manor and Greater Johnstown during his career.
“I feel really good about the group of guys we’ve got together,” Greg Page said.
The younger Page is also excited to carry on the tradition of involvement in the Ken Lantzy game established by his father, Jerry, who coached the South to a 33-28 victory in the 1994 game.
“He was involved with this quite a bit through his coaching career,” Greg Page said. “He had the honor of coaching in it several times and I’m happy to be able to do something in the same capacity that he did it because I’m very proud of him.”
The South – under Landis’ guidance – is comprised of standouts from Berlin Brothersvalley, Bishop McCort, Blacklick Valley, Conemaugh Township, Conemaugh Valley, Ferndale, Greater Johnstown, Ligonier Valley, Meyersdale, North Star, Richland, Rockwood, Saltsburg, Shade, Somerset, United, Westmont Hilltop and Windber.
Landis’ assistants are Bob Miller and Dave Schleich from Somerset, Brian Fochtman from Berlin Brothersvalley, retiring North Star coach Stacy Schmitt, Greater Johnstown’s Tony Penna Jr. and Jared McCormick of Saltsburg.
“That’s part of what makes this game special,” Landis said. “You assemble a staff of guys that you’re coaching against or that you’ve come to know through this fraternity of football.
“It’s an absolutely fantastic part about this game and I’ve enjoyed putting the staff together along with the way they go about picking the teams.”
Shawn Curtis is the sports editor of The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/shawncurtis430.