Vol. LXI, No. 26
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
ON THE EDGE: Linebacker Brad Pietras, left, heads into the backfield last Thursday in the 11th annual Sunshine Football Classic all-star game played at The College of New Jersey. Pietras, a former star at the Hun School, helped the West squad to a 14-6 win in the contest. Pietras' Hun teammate, Randy Mershon, also played for the West and had a strong game at offensive tackle. Both Pietras and Mershon will be continuing their football careers at La Salle University this fall.
Coming into last Thursday's 11th annual Sunshine Football Classic, Brad Pietras and his mates on the West squad defense knew they faced a major challenge.
"We knew they were going to run, they are a big power running team," said former Hun School linebacker Pietras, noting that the East team boasted three 1,000-yard rushers (including Princeton Highs' Alexz Henriques).
The West appeared to be losing the battle in the trenches in the early stages of the game which was played at The College of New Jersey's Lions Stadium.
Late in the first quarter, the East marched 93 yards with the drive culminating on a four-yard touchdown run by WW/P-S running back Ryan Lupo.
At that point, the heavens opened up and the game was delayed by a powerful thunderstorm. The players headed into the locker room and the 2,617 fans on hand fled to their cars.
During the ensuing one hour and 20 minute break, the West team fine-tuned their defensive strategy. "We made an adjustment during the break," said Pietras, who was joined on the West team by Hun teammate Randy Mershon. "We moved our defensive tackles in more."
After the thunderstorm passed, the game's organizers had the players come back but decided to shorten the contest by skipping the second quarter and having the players go right into the second half.
Once the game resumed, it became clear that the West defense had stiffened up. The West forced the East to punt in its first four possessions of the half and ended another drive with a fumble recovery.
"With the rain and everything, we knew they couldn't pass it much," said the 5'10, 210-pound Pietras. "We knew they were going to pound it, pound it. The defense came out in the second half and played awesome."
Meanwhile, with the 6'4, 275-pound Mershon providing some good work at left tackle, the West offense started wearing down the East defense which included PHS defensive back Sascha Hopson.
Lawrenceville's Terry Thomas scored on a one-yard plunge with 4:25 left in the third quarter and eventual game MVP Steve Giovacchini hit the extra point to put the West up 7-6. Lawrence High's Bayshawn Wells put the game out of reach as he broke free for an 80-yard touchdown as the West won by a 14-6 margin.
Pietras credited the west's defensive coordinator, Win Headley of Princeton Day School, with providing the unit with some fire. "Everything he taught us went in one ear and stayed in," said Pietras. "He's a great coach and I loved playing for him."
Pietras loved playing for the West team, which bonded quickly during its 10 days of practice leading into the game. "I think that is one of the things that made us win the game," said Pietras, who wore his red game socks from Hun to bring him some extra luck for the crimson-clad West team.
"The coaches told us right away that whether we win or not is going to depend on how much of a team we become. I think we became that team."
Pietras who will be playing at La Salle along with Mershon, saw the Sunshine game as a springboard to the next level. "It was a great learning experience playing with these guys," said Pietras.
"It's our last high school game and it's great to go out with a bang. College is right there now. A lot of kids aren't playing right now and having this opportunity is amazing."
Pietras and his West teammates made the most out of that opportunity last Thursday.
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