ANDERSON — Jimmy Campbell sprinted to the opposite end of the field with his arms lifted towards the sky in celebration. It was a welcome sight for the former Mt. Vernon quarterback after playing in just six games his senior season.
On a hot and breezy night at Anderson High School, the East All-Stars — with the help of Campbell’s 86-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game — used a quick start to top the West All-Stars 35-13 on Friday in the 16th annual Indiana Football Hall of Fame Classic.
Campbell, one of eight Hancock County players representing their respective schools, finished with 86 passing yards and two receptions for the East squad. He also held field goal attempts.
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No play in the game was bigger than the opening deep ball, though, as the quick-footed quarterback, who also lined up at wide receiver Friday, congratulated his intended target in the end zone following the score.
“We decided about the third day of practice that we were going to run it (a trick play) the first play of the game,” Campbell said with a smile. “When we ran it in practice, it didn’t work very well.
“It was definitely time to have some closure. I didn’t think that I would get hurt my senior season. It was fun to get back out here and now it finally feels like it (high school football) is over.”
Phil Renforth of Cambridge City Lincoln, a 1982 Mt. Vernon graduate, was the East head coach.
Campbell also had a chance to put on the pads one last time with former Mt. Vernon teammate Blake Slunaker, who played on the offensive line for the East side. Slunaker helped the team’s running backs churn out big yardage in the first half as it took a 21-0 lead into the break.
Jason Neal, Eastern Hancock’s running back and special teams coach, was also a part of the East coaching staff with Renforth as an assistant. The Royals had three players on the field Friday in Matt Bowman, Austin Smith and Caleb Beyers.
Beyers (four tackles and fumble recovery) saw plenty of kick return action (kickoffs and punts) and started as a free safety for the East squad while Bowman saw time as the team’s punter and in the backfield.
Smith, Eastern Hancock’s leading receiver last season, hauled in a 9-yard pass in the second quarter for a near-first down that led to an East 23-yard rushing score seconds later.
Bowman also recovered a fumble in the first quarter for the East, which led the West 7-0 at the end of one.
New Palestine linebacker Joe Izbicki, who will attend Marian University, joined teammates Duke Blackwell and Andrew Yazel one last time, as well, and totaled nine tackles in the win. Izbicki almost intercepted West quarterback Luke Haunn (Maconaquah) twice in the second quarter, as well.
Blackwell showed his moves in the second half and gave the East side a first down after a 15-yard catch down the left sideline. He followed it with a 15-yard catch-and-run for a score one minute into the fourth quarter as the East team took a 28-0 advantage.
However, the West squad was able to score twice in the final quarter of play.
Blackwell led Class 5A No. 1 New Palestine (13-1) in receiving yards (1,148) and touchdowns (17) last season and will further his playing career at the University of St. Francis. Both Marian and St. Francis play in the Mideast League of the Mid-States Football Association.
Izbicki led the team in tackles (104). Yazel, the team’s starting center, helped the Dragons’ (13-1) offense rush for nearly 5,000 total yards in 2015. He will attend St. Joseph’s College (Rensselaer).
Eastern Hancock’s (10-1) Bowman was the county’s top dual threat in receiving and rushing, racking up over 500 yards in each. He finished with 591 yards on the ground with 12 touchdowns and 523 yards through the air with four scores.
He will attend Defiance College in Ohio for football.
Smith pulled in 784 receiving yards and found the end zone seven times. Beyers, who will attend Anderson University for college, tallied 93 tackles and three interceptions as a free safety.
Slunaker helped Mt. Vernon rack up 2,852 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns last season. He will attend the University of St. Francis.
A large portion of those went to Campbell, who finished with 602 passing yards, 510 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns.
He will attend Trinity International University for football.