Nick Rooney is known for having the confidence to say what he wants, regardless of what others think.
So it was no surprise that the Minnetonka quarterback stood up and addressed players from both teams on the eve of the MFCA Tackle Cancer All-Star Football Game about the life-lessons the experience provided.
Then he went out and, along with Eden Prairie running back Anthony Anderson and an offensive line that looked like it had been together for an entire season instead of a single week, led the South team to a convincing 37-22 victory over the North.
It was the third straight victory for the South, which was coached by Eden Prairie’s Mike Grant. The game was played at St. John’s University, where many alumni had hoped to see Grant on a regular basis when he was a finalist to take over for retired coach John Gagliardi last year.
“He’s a great guy and a great coach,” said Rooney, who completed 9-of-15 passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns while splitting time at quarterback with Joey Lee of Dawson-Boyd. “I used to hate him, because of our rivalry and all, but that’s what’s great about this game. You get to know people and you’re feelings change. This was a great group of kids.”
Anderson, who will be playing at Iowa Western Community College next year, was the South Offensive MVP, rushing 9 times for 77 yards and two touchdowns as the South roared out to a 34-0 lead before the North closed the deficit in the second half. He had the offensive highlight of the game for the South, a 38-yard first-half run in which he reversed field and ran over at least three players
“I was just excited to show what I could do,” said Anderson. “It was an experience to build on.”
The North’s chances took a big hit early in the game when quarterback Keaton Studsrud of Benilde-St. Margaret’s went down with a hip pointer on their first drive of the game. He wasn’t able to return, forcing Detroit Lake’s Michael Herzog to play the entire game.
“It’s an awesome way to end the season but that’s not the way you want to get playing time,” said Herzog, the North’s Offensive MVP with 246 yards passing and 67 yards rushing. “Keaton’s a great quarterback. That was a real tough break.”
- South kicker Reid Taubenheim of Farmington kicked a game-record 52-yard field goal in the second half. He also kicked off nine times, all but one going deep into the end zone and keeping the North pinned in its own end for much of the game.“That’s something my high school coaches have always stressed,” he said.
- South offensive lineman Sam Stoll of Kasson-Mantorville was playing the last football game of his career and he was doing so with a superb group of linemen that paved the way for 246 yards rushing on the afternoon. Stoll, a two-time Class 2A heavyweight wrestling champion who owns the state record for consective pins, will wrestle at Iowa next year. “This is the way you want your football career to end,” he said. “It was a lineman’s dream.”
- Apple Valley defensive lineman Lord Hyeamang was named the South Defensive MVP. Totino-Grace linebacker Josh Sitarz was the Defensive MVP for the North.
- All three of the South’s top offensive players in terms of yardage – Rooney, Anderson and Glencoe-Silver Lake running back Dalton Clouse – will be playing junior college football next year. Rooney will play at Rochester, Anderson at Iowa Western and Clouse at Ridgewater in Willmar.
- Both of Rooney's touchdown passes were to Nicollet tight end Matt Christenson. Minnetonka is a Class 6A school while Nicollet plays Nine-Man, further demonstrating that good football players come from all levels. "He is? I didn't know that school was that small," Rooney said. "I've been throwing to him all week. He catches everything. Great hands."
- All three of the North touchdowns came on highlight-reel pass plays in the second half. Totino-Grace's Carlton Djam made a diving one-handed catch in the end zone for the North's first score; Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton's Chad Johnson resembled another famous receiver with an identical name on a 39-yard reception; and Park Rapids' tight end Noah MacPherson ripped the ball out of the hands of a South defender and outraced everyone to the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown for North's score. All three were thrown by Herzog.
- The timing was three quarters too late for Lakeville South linebacker Tyler Lattery. Lattery stepped in front of a Herzog pass at the South 25 on the game's last play. With nothing but green in front of him, Lattery raced down the middle of the field, looking to put his stamp on the game. But it was not meant to be. He was chased down and tackled on the North 20 as time expired. "The only thing I was thinking about was not getting caught from behind, which is exactly what happened," Lattery said. "I told my family that if that play happens in the first quarter, I've got the legs to go all the way. It doesn't really matter, though. I pretty happy right now."