DAYTON - From all corners of the state, the best high school players and coaches in Ohio converged on Welcome Stadium in Dayton for the Ohio High School Coaches Association North-South Classic. But the final scene was one that fans in Seneca County have gotten real familiar with seeing - Brian Colatruglio walking off the field a winner.
The Columbian mentor was the head coach for the North squad in the day's first game pitting all-stars from Ohio's big schools (Divisions I, II and III) against each other.
Powered by the arm of Massillon's Kyle Kempt, a future Oregon State Beaver, the North won a 33-27 back-and-forth affair.
"It was awesome. Obviously it's always more fun when you win, but either way it was a great experience," Colatruglio said. "I got to work with some great coaches, all at the top of the game. And they're great kids. I spent a lot of time over last three days with them. I was able to really get to know a lot of the kids. It will be neat watching them progress through their college careers and know I was able to spend a week with them, coaching them."
The North jumped out to a 14-0 lead, only to see the South respond with the next three scores for a 21-14 halftime lead.
But the North rallied with two touchdown passes from Kempt to get the win. Kempt finished 11 of 18 for 161 yards and three scores. All three touchdowns went to Gareon Conley, Kempt's high school teammate.
"We were fortunate to have the two Massillon kids on our team," Colatruglio said. "One of the hardest things to do is develop chemistry in a short amount of time. And they've been working together a long time and had that connection with other."
Jack Jacoby, one of Colatruglio's charges at Columbian, played for him one final time. Jacoby played defense in the game and was credited with one tackle for loss.
"Getting that tackle for loss, it felt good and let you know you can play at that level," Jacoby said. "They ran a sweep with the tailback, it was one-on-one in the open field. He was a big back and I was able to take his legs out for a four-yard loss."
Jacoby said after the game he was happy to get out and play one more game of football.
"It was definitely fun to put on the pads and hit someone, honestly. It was really fun to do that again," he said. "It was a great experience, a great game, and its always nice to win."
"He played good," Colatruglio said. "He made some plays; he was in the right spots. A lot of these kids are going to the Big Ten, and have no idea where Tiffin, Ohio is. Jack went out there and held his own against them and represented Columbian well."
The small school all-stars (Divisions IV, V and VI) took the field for the night-cap and once again, put on an exciting show.
The North team - with Calvert's Todd Fox as an assistant coach, Seneca Jared Thompson on the defensive side and Mohawk's Drew Loose splitting time at quarterback - got a field goal with 5:14 remaining to score a 27-24 victory.
After the South tied the game with just over eight minutes to play, Loose led the North toward the winning score, completing a 34-yard pass to Alec Hetzel that set up the game-winning field goal.
Loose threw for 101 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for a team-high 24 yards. Although that total also includes a 19-yard loss when Loose was running the clock out on the game's final play.
In the second quarter, Loose broke off a 39-yard rush, then followed up with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Brady Berger.
Fox said after the game, after years going against him, it was nice to have him on the same team.
"He's a great young man and that speaks highly of his program," Fox said. "He had a very good night and did some great things for us. It's great to have a player like that and it was nice being on the same side as him."
Fox also got the chance to coach Thompson one final time and was proud of the way he played against the top players in the state.
"He played well. He's always been an undersized defensive end and tonight he went against some huge linemen," Fox said. "He more than held his own against them and has nothing to hang his head about."
Overall, Fox said it was a great experience.
"It was a great football game, a lot of great athletes out there," he said. "Just an overall great experience to be around those athletes and coaches. It was great to be there and coach a kid like Jared one more time."