INDIANAPOLIS — Injuries late in the week left the North All-Stars depleted on the defensive line for Friday's 53rd annual game with the South at North Central High School.
Justin Wozniak was more than willing to accomodate.
"We had two defensive ends get hurt at the last minute, so they asked me to switch over. I told them it was fine with me," the Michigan City graduate said. "I'm used to playing both ways. I've done it since my sophomore year. It's nothing new."
Named to the team as a tight end, Wozniak saw spot duty on the offensive side of the ball, seeing the bulk of his action at defensive end, where his sack in the final seconds helped seal the North's 25-24 comeback victory, its fifth consecutive win in the series.
"It's always fun hitting the quarterback," Wozniak said. "I was using my speed, my fast hands, a lot to my advantage, to try to get pressure. It was nice to have other players to switch in and out. Definitely seeing what I could do going against other all-stars was a nice challenge."
The North trailed 24-15 in the fourth quarter before Andrean quarterback Zack Merrill, who was voted the game MVP, scrambled for a 22-yard score. Bronson Yoder's interception on the subsequent South series set up the go-ahead field goal by Chesterton's Chris VanEekeren from 28 yards out, and Wozniak and the defense made the lead stand up.
"This was one of the funnest game of my life," Wozniak said. "The whole week was a blast, meeting new people."
With the position change switch, Wozniak ended up squaring off in practice quite a bit with La Porte tackle Brandon Seibert.
"It was fun learning to how I need to play against faster defensive linemen like Woz," Seibert said. "I'd say we split about even (on plays)."
The North's zone read scheme, which featured 24 passes, just about as many as the Slicers threw all last season, was a drastic change for Seibert, but he enjoyed the experience.
"It was a little different, but once I got used to it, I really liked it. It helps creates some really big plays," Seibert said. "They taught it really good. It was really easy to pick up. I caught on and was clicking with the rest of the team."
And it's always nice to walk off the field with a victory.
"It's really good to cap off my high school career with a win, especially a comeback win," Seibert said.
New Slicers coach Jeremy Lowery was on the other sideline, representing his previous school, Paoli, as a South assistant.
"It's all good," Lowery said. "This is a special game for everybody involved. It's such an awesome opportunity to get to know other coaches around the state, all the great players in the state. It's a great, first-class event. The (Indiana Football Coaches Association) does such a fine job putting it together. I was proud to be a part of it, whether it was Paoli or LaPorte. Obviously, I have a lot of fond memories of my time at Paoli and I'm looking forward to some good times at La Porte."
Merrill ran for 106 yards and threw for 113. VanEekeren also kicked a 40-yard field goal and Lowell's Blake Jansky had two sacks, while Valpo's Tyler Bukur and Nino Barbosa each made seven tackles as the Region showed well for the North.
Part of the proceeds collected at the game will be donated to the Jacob Sharpe Foundation. Sharpe was the son of former La Porte coach Dave Sharpe who died as an infant. The foundation provided funds for grieving families to honor their child's life through memorial and funeral services.
IFCA North-South All-Star Classic
North 25, South 24
Chesterton's Chris VanEekeren kicked a go-ahead field goal with 2:20 left.