IN THE YEARS to come, the place will have had 65,000 people and this story will have appeared on the back page of the
The 36th Eagles City High School All-Star Classic made its debut at Lincoln Financial Field last night and the participants put on a fine show. The Non-Public squad bested the Public League, 16-15, in front of a vocal crowd of 4,936.
Whether they scored a touchdown or played just a minor role, it will be a night they'll never forget. Heck, Merrill Reese called the game on WIP. Merrill Reese!
As is customary when the Eagles play, fireworks exploded from the roof of the Linc following the national anthem and for a second there it could have been a Sunday in the winter. The big screens televised the action and churned out replays. In fact, Germantown's Ramadan Abdullah's 77-yard touchdown catch was aided directly by the first-class confines.
"That's how I broke a tackle. I looked at the scoreboard and saw somebody behind me. As soon as he dove, I picked my feet up," said Abdullah, who is headed to Rhode Island to play in the Atlantic 10, the top conference in Division I-AA.
"This is where I want to be, on an NFL field," said Abdullah. "I never stepped foot in the Linc [before last night]. I know it was going to be something big, but it was more than I expected."
The Non-Public pushed its advantage in the series to 20-15-1 thanks to three field goals by Neumann-Goretti's Will Huff and a 17-yard touchdown pass from West Catholic's Jarred Evans to St. Joseph's Prep's Pete Hurley.
Huff added an extra point and earned the NPs offensive player of the game honors. He kicked five field goals during the regular season, but served mostly as a punter.
His first field goal was his shakiest, though it did set a stadium record. The distance was a modest 27 yards, but Huff, wearing No. 90, became the highest-uniformed player to convert a kick at the Linc. He broke the record set when No. 53 Mark Simoneau hit an extra point for the Eagles in 2005. All kidding aside, Huff hails from nearby 12th & Ritner and will never look at the stadium down the street the same again.
"It will definitely bring back some memories," Huff said.
David Williams put a fitting exclamation point to the end of North Catholic's storied football program with six tackles, including two for a loss. He was named the NP's defensive player of the game.
"It was an unbelievable experience. I never thought I'd be playing here," said Williams, who was among those happily caught off guard by the pregame fireworks. "I didn't know that was going to happen. I didn't even know they were going to have the tunnel."
A couple of quick strikes accounted for the Pub's first two scores. Malik Stokes, from Northeast, hit Abdullah with the 77-yard strike in the second quarter. Then, after Bartram's Al-Hajj Shabazz downed a punt at the 1, Roxborough's Kwame Bell recovered a fumbled snap to set the Pub up at the 1. Tyriuq Gordon thumped his way in for a touchdown on the next play.
Zaire Anderson, of Frankford, was the Pub's defensive player of the game. Shabazz and Chestnut Hill's Brendan Plunkett were the winners of the Daily News sportsmanship award.
But last night was more about the final score, stats and awards.
For Abdullah, he'll never forget emerging from the tunnel as flames exploded when his name was announced before the game.