CHARLESTON -It was the best of times and it was the worst of times for the North Bears during Saturday's North-South Football Classic played at the University of Charleston's Laidley Field.
Two Zach Phillips touchdown passes and Hunter Colbert PATs staked the Bears to a 14-13 halftime advantage.
Buy that would be as close as the game would get as the South Cardinals tallied 29 points in the third quarter to turn the game into a blowout and an eventual 46-26 win. The victory was the fifth in a row for the Cards.
"We have some great players on this (the South) team," Wahama's Kane Roush said. "We just came out in the second half and started clicking on all cylinders."
A Tyler Sagraves (Nicholas County) 19-yard pass to Chris Turner (Winfield) pushed the hosts into the lead for good with 9:29 showing on the clock, but it was a 75-yard fumble return by Roush that allowed the Cardinals to break the game open.
"I didn't even know that I had forced the fumble until the guys on the sideline told me," continued the White Falcon. "All week long we practiced the scoop and run and it came in handy tonight. I just saw the ball, picked it up and headed the other direction. My teammates did a great job of blocking for me on that return."
The play not only turned the tide of the game, but earned Roush the South's Player of the Game award. Wheeling Park's Zach Phillips earned the North's Player of the Game award.
"I'm just happy to be here and playing on a winning team," said Roush. "It feels great knowing that I scored my first touchdown on my new home field."
Roush has committed to play at the University of Charleston next fall.
The North, who last tasted victory in 2009 (33-0), was driving for an apparent go-ahead score until Roush caused a fumble at the South 25 then picked up the loose ball and ran down the home sidelines for the touchdown.
The South would add two more scores in the quarter on a 1-yard pass from Isaiah Kinder to Nick Tubbs and a 58-yard punt return by Greenbrier West's Malik Boatwright.
A Jalen Jones rush pushed the margin to 46-14 before a pair of late touchdown passes - one by Phillips and one by Parkersburg High's Aaron Roberts -accounted for the final score.
Turnovers were the name of the game during the first half of action as both the North and South took advantage of miscues to put points on the board.
The Bears were the first to make the most of their opponent's mistake as a fumble recovery by Lewis County's Jordan Hall gave the North a first down at the South 48. Three plays later Wheeling Park's Zach Phillips found Bridgeport's Anthony Bonamico with a 21-yard scoring toss with 9:47 showing on the clock. Jefferson's Hunter Colbert connected on the PAT to hand the Bears an early 7-0 lead.
A short lived lead, however.
The South Cardinals took the ensuing kickoff and drove 56 yards for the tying touchdown with Huntington's Nick Tubbs accounting for 52 yards on a pass from Greenbrier East's Isaiah Kinder.
Those would be the only points of the first quarter, but not of the half as the Cardinals' added a 10-yard fumble return by Capital's James Walton to take a 13-7 lead with 7:35 remaining in the half.
Walton's play came on a failed punt by the Bears as the snap from center sailed over Parkersburg's Kyle Foster's head. Foster attempted to fall on the ball at the North 10, but was unable to get the ball away from Walton.
The North, which hadn't won since 2009, wasn't done as Phillips found North Marion's Chase Banker with a 15-yard scoring pass with 5:05 left in the half. Colbert again connected on the PAT to give the North a 14-13 lead at the intermission.