Tom Lower made big hits and Tony Opperman cleared running lanes as members of the Central team last Saturday in a 21-7 win over the OCC in the MAX Sports Center Central Ohio All-Star Football Game at Upper Arlington.
The 2008 graduates of St. Charles had different takes on the game. Lower, a 6-foot, 180-pound linebacker, likely played his final organized game and Opperman, a 6-2, 245-pound offensive lineman, will continue the sport at Case Western.
"It was a lot of fun to put on the pads and get back with everyone," said Opperman, who will report to Case Western on Aug. 12 and plans to major in biomedical engineering. "We had freshman camp a couple of weeks ago and I saw the offense and like what I saw. It was nice to get to be able to play some before heading up there."
The Central team dominated the game, leading 7-0 at halftime and 21-0 midway through the fourth quarter. The OCC had four turnovers and was limited to two first downs through three quarters.
"We were firing off the ball really well and they weren't doing a good job of blocking us up front," said Lower, who plans to attend Ohio University. "And (Ready's) Ian Graham (the Central Defensive Most Valuable Player) is a beast. He was all over the place."
Lower said the Central team was loose and ready to play.
"The game was great and practice was a good time," said Lower, who assisted on one tackle. "We were able to joke around and since it was an all-star game, it wasn't so serious. We just went out and had fun."
Ready High School graduate Ian Graham knew all about the reputation of his opponents heading into the Max Sports Center Central Ohio All-Star Football Game last Saturday at Upper Arlington.
As a member of the Central all-stars -- a team comprised of players from the Central Catholic, City and Mid-State leagues -- Graham and his teammates aimed to build an equally big name for the talent on their roster as their opponents from the OCC all-stars already possessed.
They did so early and often throughout a 21-7 victory.
Since the format of OCC vs. Central was adopted in 2001, the teams have split their eight meetings. The OCC won the last two games.
"We came in with a little bit of a chip on our shoulders," said Graham, who had five solo tackles, five assisted tackles and one fumble recovery and was Defensive MVP for the Central. "The OCC is always decorated, and it's a good league with a lot of good players. It was great the way our defense played. We had a lot of three-and-outs, and when you get a lot of three-and-outs you get rested."
The Central caused four turnovers and held the OCC to one first down over the first three quarters. West's J.R. Brihm had an interception and Ready's Shea Brintlinger and Adam Rood also had fumble recoveries.
Offensively, the Central found efficiency behind multi-faceted quarterback Austin Schlosser from Jonathan Alder. Schlosser rushed 10 times for 78 yards and completed seven of 11 passes for 54 yards and two touchdowns. He was the Offensive MVP for the Central.
"I thought we spread it out a lot and spread things up the middle, and we had a good defense to work with," said Schlosser, who will play for Otterbein.
Harvest Prep's Dane Givner, Independence's Luther Nicholas and Walnut Ridge's Anthony Gamble were other standouts offensively. Givner had five receptions for 62 yards and two touchdowns. Nicholas rushed for 24 yards and one score and Gamble had four catches for 37 yards.
Also defensively for the Central, Walnut Ridge's Chris Harvey had three solo tackles and two assisted tackles and Eastmoor's Marcus Ervin had two solo tackles and one sack.
The Central took a 7-0 lead with 6 minutes, 45 seconds to go in the first quarter when Schlosser hit Givner for an 18-yard touchdown.
Schlosser connected with Givner for a 15-yard score with 10:57 remaining to make it 14-0. A fumble by the OCC that was picked up by Brintlinger at the OCC 13-yard-line on the next play set up another score, a 13-yard run by Nicholas with 10:50 left that made it 21-0.
"Offensively we just wanted to come out and have some fun, get a lot of different guys involved," said Walnut Ridge coach Byron Mattox, whose staff headed the Central all-stars. "Our first (scoring) drive was huge. In the third quarter, we had the ball a lot except for a few plays, and defensively we were just able to get after it. They were a bunch of ball-hawks."
The OCC's only first down of the first half came when Reynoldsburg's Jay R. Taylor had an 11-yard run with 4:29 to go in the second period.
Taylor, the OCC's Offensive MVP, had three carries for 20 yards and scored on a 9-yard pass from Upper Arlington's Brayden Layer with 6:53 remaining. That score finished the OCC's most successful possession -- an 11-play, 76-yard drive that took 3:46.
Westerville South quarterback Gabe Shively had a 16-yard run and a 19-yard completion on the scoring drive as well. His teammate, receiver Brent Carter, had three catches for 14 yards. Layer finished 5-for-8 passing for 33 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Gahanna's Ryan Miller, who had one fumble recovery, two solo tackles and six assisted tackles, was named the OCC's Defensive MVP.
"You can't fumble the ball and drop passes like we did and expect to win," said Groveport coach Tim Brown, who headed the OCC all-stars. "I think it was part of being away from football for a few months. They probably forced a few of the turnovers, but it was mostly because of our execution."