Deep into the summer, two Putnam County athletes represented their high schools for one last time at the Indiana Football Coaches Association North-South All Star Game at Indianapolis North Central High School.
North Putnam's Nate Bryan and South Putnam's Rob Gibson both featured for the South squad. South Putnam head coach Troy Burgess was also part of the festivities, serving as an assistant coach for South.
Both players participated in the Wabash Valley Football Coaches Association (WVFCA) game three weeks ago.
"These were the best of the best," Gibson said. "The 80 best guys in the state playing in one all star game."
The game started with a bang as Lance Magee of the South squad intercepted Zach Terrell for a 22-yard touchdown return seven seconds into the contest.
The South stars tacked on further points on a game-record 52-yard field goal by Ryan Frain, held by Gibson, for a 10-0 lead with 4:15 left in the first quarter.
With the North offense stalling, South extended the lead further in the second quarter.
A Cody Hess 1-yard run made the score 16-0 with 7:48 left in the half.
Both teams missed field goals before the North squad finally got on the board in the fourth quarter.
Justin Laureys hit Danny Anthrop for a 56-yard strike to cut the deficit to 16-7 with 7:19 to play in the game, but North could not find a way to the end zone again.
After an interception by Jeremiah Windell, the South squad held on for the 16-7 win.
South Putnam head coach and South squad offensive coordinator Troy Burgess said that the two weeks of extra football were very different but very rewarding.
"In the WVFCA game, I was the organizer," Burgess said. "All I had to do was get practice plans together and help organize with the guys coaching the offense and defensive positions. It was easy.
"This week, I had to install our offense, what we do out South Putnam. When you get the type of athletes we had, Lord, everything looks good this week."
"It's amazing how much we were able to get in in a short period of time," he said. "It's a testament to these athletes and how great of football players they are."
Burgess said the game plan fit the flow of the game but left out some players at times.
"I thought we did a good job. We moved the ball well. I thought the times we got stopped, we stopped ourselves," Burgess said. "We had a chance for a big third down conversion that we missed and a reverse where we put the ball on the ground.
"The tough thing in a game like this is there aren't enough footballs to go around. We had two great tight ends and I'm not sure we got a ball to either one of them tonight."
Burgess also noted that it was a fitting way to see of Rob Gibson's prep career.
"I did pick Rob to be the starter," Burgess said. "They (the three running backs) got equal reps, but Rob's my guy and I felt for what Rob's done for me, we wanted to share something special in his last game as a high school player, while he certainly earned the right to start."
Bryan, who will play for Franklin College this fall, said the two all star weeks had many similarities.
"Both weeks were a lot of fun," Bryan said. "This week, we got to connect more because we stayed the whole week, not commute back and forth.
"It was a tough week of practice, but it was a lot of fun and I made some great friends.
"Tonight, I did my best. That was all I could ask for," Bryan added.
Bryan also praised the work of the coaches for the last four seasons and past month.
"I think I've been prepared as well as I could be by the coaches and through these games," he said. "It's nice to have had two weeks in pads where others kids haven't had them on for nearly a year.
"My coaches have been great through these games and from back home. All the coaches from North Putnam were great and I'm as prepared as I can be going to Franklin."
Gibson, meanwhile, was honored by the starting position on the South squad.
"It was a blessing from God," he said. "To be healthy, have the mindset to come out and practice three times a day and have the trust of the line and the other backs when they offered me the position, I took advantage of that and they blocked well for me this week."
Gibson noted a number of differences between the two all star contests.
"The WVFCA game was a lot more laid back," he said. "It was one practice a day for two hours. The offense was pretty simple and we got it down quickly.
"Here, we had a more complex offense and more plays to go through with better athletes."
Gibson, who has a scholarship to play at Marian University this fall and is going into the special education program, laid out what his plans were for the next four years and beyond.
"My main goal is to get my education and help people in life, much like Becky Brothers, and concentrate on helping other people," he said.
Brothers was a guidance counselor at South Putnam High School for 18 years before passing away last December.
"I'm going to play football on the side for Marian," he said, "Which is a blessing."
North Squad 0 0 0 7 -- 7
South Squad 10 6 0 -- 16
11:53 -- Magee 22-yard interception return (Frain kick) 7-0
2:16 -- Frain 52-yard field goal 10-0
7:48 -- Hess 1-yard run (XP no good) 16-0
7:19 -- Anthrop 56-yard catch from Laureys (Grossnickle kick) 16-7
Gibson -- 7 carries, 21 yards
Bryan -- 2 tackle assists