By Beau Wicker
---- — INDIANAPOLIS — The North-South All-Star Football Classic is always big for Winamac coach Tim Roth.
The game’s MVP award is named in memory of his late son, Tyler, who tragically died in a car accident just weeks before he was to play in the game in 2001. His other son, Parker, played in the game in 2004. Tim Roth was an assistant coach for the North team in 1991 when Winamac’s Brian Schultz was named as the game’s MVP. Roth was presented with the Distinguished Service Award by the IFCA during the All-Star game in 2006.
So it’s only fitting that he would get to be the head coach of the North team, which he was on Friday night. After all, he has coached for 32 seasons at Winamac, going 202-132 during that time. His 202 wins rank him 32nd all time in state history and 12th all time among active coaches.
The game on Friday didn’t end up going like Roth or the North would have liked, but in the end it’s all about the experience of the week for all involved. And one could say that Roth and Tyler Roth certainly left their mark with the camaraderie and spirit that the North showed as a team.
Winamac and Pioneer were both represented by All-Stars in the contest. Winamac’s Zach Shidler played wide receiver and Pioneer’s Josh Lytle played center.
After a closely contested first half, the South took advantage of some mistakes by the North squad en route to pulling away for a 27-6 win.
“The first half it was a one-score game. We were as physical as they were,” said Roth, whose squad trailed 10-6 at halftime. “In the second half their power running game just took over. The kid from Indianapolis here (Lawrence Central’s Alex Rodriguez, 10 carries, 79 yards) is awesome and we didn’t have a way of stopping him. And our defense spent too much time on the field.”
Charlestown quarterback Aaron Daniel of the South team was named the Tyler Roth MVP of the game. He was 2 of 2 passing for 57 yards and a touchdown and added 60 yards rushing on six carries and two more TDs.
The North squad had some issues with its kicking game. The team had an extra point blocked, two missed field goals and a punt that was blocked that led to a quick score in the fourth quarter.
When the South started to build on its lead in the second half, it made the North offense one-dimensional and mostly ineffective, much to the chagrin of Lytle.
“The second half obviously the South got a lead on us so we couldn’t do much run blocking which is more of what I like to do,” the 6-4, 280-pound Pioneer grad said. “There’s not too much glory in pass setting. The first half I felt like we really came off the ball and as a group we were able to move around the defensive line a lot. But a couple calls didn’t go our way, a couple plays, we fumbled a few things. That’s just the way it goes. We made a few mistakes, shot ourselves in the foot a little bit.”
Lytle said he relishes the fact that his No. 68 All-Star jersey will go on Pioneer coach Mike Johnson’s wall in his office at the school as the Panthers’ 10th representative in the game.
Lytle had chances to play this fall at some smaller schools but has decided to go to Purdue and hang up his cleats.
“I’ve already come to grips with that after my last game for Pioneer,” he said. “It was fun to get back out there and hit some people.”
For old time’s sake, Lytle pancake-blocked a defender on a kickoff return in the fourth quarter to go out on top in his own special way.
Shidler also had his most memorable moment of the game in the fourth quarter, when he caught an eight-yard slant pass over the middle. He was later overthrown on a fade pattern on a fourth-down play on the drive. He was only targeted four times in the game and made the most of his only opportunity that wasn’t overthrown or batted away by a defender.
“We didn’t get the victory, which kind of sucks. But it was a fun experience. I would never change this for the world,” Shidler said. “Meeting a bunch of great guys, great football players that are going on to the next level and playing with them and competing with them, it was just an awesome week.”
The last time Shidler had played wide receiver was his freshman season at Winamac. He was the Warriors’ quarterback the last three seasons.
He said Merrillville’s spread offense was installed during the week in practice.
“Learning a new offense was fun,” he said. “A lot of routes went into this. It was just fun.”
Roth got emotional when talking about the week for him.
“It was great. I don’t know how to explain it,” he said. “They’re a super bunch of guys. They’re very well coached, very well representatives of their communities. They’re just good kids.
“I’ll be something I remember the rest of my life.”
Roth said he even enjoyed coaching Lytle of the rival Panthers.
“He was on my side, and I’m glad he was I’m telling you,” he said. “He’s a great kid. I’m glad he’s gone, but he’s a great kid, a lot of fun, a jokester. We had the Winamac-Pioneer moments a few times this week, but it was a lot of fun.”
Roth was also happy to be joined on the team by Shidler, a three-sport standout for four years at Winamac.
“Zach was great. I know he had a lot of fun. Anytime we can get a kid on the team, that’s something special for the whole program,” he said.
Shidler enjoyed suiting up one last time with Roth at the helm. He will attend Ball State and said he’s going to try to walk on to the baseball team there.
“I’ve been so blessed to play for him the last four years,” Shidler said. “I love him to death. I’m going to miss playing for him and playing for Winamac on Friday nights, wearing the maroon and white.”
Beau Wicker is the sports editor of the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.