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Hancock players shine in East-West classic

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ANDERSON — The term All-Star is given to individuals who excel in a specific area, most cases this is associated with sports.

Six such Hancock County All-Star players earned a roster spot for the East team in the 12th annual East-West Football Classic Friday night at Anderson High School. Their efforts helped lead the East to a 20-7 victory.

New Palestine’s Connor Simmons and Brandon Collins started at quarterback and wide receiver, respectively. Mt. Vernon’s Stephen Morris, an offensive lineman, also started for the East. MV’s Brandon Lockart was named a defensive starter at linebacker.

Chris Wolf from New Palestine and Matthew Dickerson from Greenfield were named to the team but unable to play.

The players were not the only ones on the team from Hancock County. The East coaching staff was comprised of the coaches from Mt. Vernon. Doug Armstrong served as the head coach and was assisted by coach Leisure and coach Richards.

“It’s a good honor,” Simmons said. “This is hand selected, not every player gets to play at this level.”

Simmons, a University of Indianapolis commit, targeted Collins twice in the first half. He said they have a level of comfort with each other and hoped it would get him in a rhythm. Despite their efforts, the two could not make a connection early.

Collins, committed to Butler University, did make a connection with another East team quarterback. Shenandoah’s John Huff found Collins in the back corner of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown to give the East a 14-7 lead.

“(Armstrong) called a slant then called timeout,” Collins said. “I told him the fade was there because I had the height advan-tage on the (defensive back).”

The New Pal combination would connect in the second half on a 28-yard pass. Simmons looked to be sacked before he danced out of trouble to his left and found Collins open downfield.

During the same drive, Simmons ran for an 8-yard gain setting up a first and goal. He then found Hagerstown’s Brandon Burns for a 9-yard pass. JaRon Terry of Muncie Central punched it in on a 1-yard run. A missed extra point made it 20-7.

The completion gave Collins 38-yards on two receptions and a touchdown.

Simmons finished the game completing three passes on 10 attempts for 50 yards.

“I got to work,” he said when asked what he could take from this game.

The East took the opening kickoff but was unable to muster any offense. A short punt by the East set up the West with a short field.

West quarterback Tanner Martin (Northwestern) led the offense down the field to score a touchdown on a 4-yard sweep to the left by tailback Preston Penrod from Manchester. The extra point gave the West a 7-0 lead.

The East defense tightened up on the West, not allowing them another point.

Lockhart, a Trine University commit, was all over the field on defense. He recorded three and a half tackles.

“I feel like I just played really hard,” Lockart said. “It is my last high school game, I thought I might as well just go out there and play as hard as I can. I had a great time.”

The East tied it up with 5:24 left in the second quarter on a 5-yard run up the middle by Pendleton Heights’ running back Jacob Lyons.

This was Armstrong’s third stint as a coach on an all-star team.

“We just organize it, give them some things to go with and let them play,” Armstrong said. “There is not a lot of fundamental time going on. It is give them a little plan, practice it and let them go play.

“I would like to thank all the coaches for volunteering.”

Armstrong then pointed out the game-changing plays came up with.

“We had some playmakers on our side that come through,” he said.

The words used to describe what this experience meant to the players were echoed by that of Collins.

“It was so much fun," he said. "Not just playing but meeting all the guys. It was awesome.”

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