Former rivals are now friends. Muncy and Hughesville, Loyalsock and Montoursville, Lewisburg and Mifflinburg ... Athletes who could never before envision playing together are now teammates.
Each season the Lions' Club District 4 North-South All-Star game brings these former enemies together. It happens again tonight at South Williamsport's Rodney K. Morgans Stadium as the annual all-star game adds another chapter to its growing tradition. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
"You're going against these guys in games and thinking that this guy is a beast and now he's right next to you and you're going against someone else with him by your side," said Lewisburg center Kyle Santorine, playing for the South. "It's a pretty cool experience."
"Having our regular-season rivals on the same team is actually a blast," said Montgomery wide receiver Colton Harer, playing for the North. "We get along really well and already are learning each others' timings."
The North is hoping to snap a two-game losing streak in the series. Last year's game was an exciting one with the South pulling away in the fourth quarter and securing a 29-12 win. Tonight's game could be close the entire way as both teams are loaded with all-stars and future collegiate players.
Most of the Sun-Gazette's coverage area teams are represented by the North team. Hughesville, Warrior Run, Milton and Lewisburg players compete for the South. The South swept the three District 4 championships and three Heartland Division championships last fall but the North has the firepower and strength to match up.
South Williamsport quarterback Tyler House and Montoursville quarterback Aaron Cole both topped 1,000 yards last year and helped their teams win 18 combined games. South's Brandon Stonge, Williamsport's Devin Miller and Sayre's Kyle Post each ran for more than 1,000 yards while South's Matt Bartholomew and Montoursville's Matt Krezmer also had big seasons. Harer led the district in receptions and Cameron Karschner was one of the district's premier receivers the last two years.
Combine those skill players with outstanding linemen and several defensive standouts and the North is feeling good entering tonight's game.
"Our team is looking extremely strong in the first few practices," Harer said. "We have had a lot of, Whoa!, moments."
The South looks especially tough up front and also features several big-time playmakers. Southern Columbia quarterback Taylor Young and Central Columbia quarterback Jordan Thivierge both topped 1,000 yards and have enticing weapons like Cale Rice, Erik Smeltz and Dylan Hine. Santorine and Rucker both could play offensively or defensively and could figure prominently in the game's outcome.
Rucker is the only Hughesville player competing while Santorine is joined by teammate Alex Starmack. Jarred Fogelman represents Milton and Chris Hartman represents Warrior Run.
"We're looking good. Offensively and defensively we're clicking," Santorine said. "We'll be ready to play."
Both teams will be. Practices and other festivities leading up to tonight's game have been fun. Playing one last high school game is fun, too. But do not tell these all-stars that this game is an exhibition.
This is the last time these players will ever represent their schools and they have no intention of walking off the field without being victorious. That is what makes this game so fun and intriguing.
"We're going to have fun but nobody likes losing, especially when it's your last (high school) football game," Santorine said. "It's going to be competitive."
"The intensity during a game is amazing," said Stonge, who broke South's career rushing record last fall. "Being my last game on this field, I'm going to go all out."