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Gridiron reunions set for Salem standouts

June 13, 2012
STEPHANIE ELVERD - Staff Writer ( , Salem News

SALEM - Salem football players Max Schuster, Steve Manypenny, Zack Penick and Jordan Pierce all graduated last month, closing the door on their high school careers. Head football coach Mike Kopachy also said goodbye to Salem when he stepped down from his position May 8.

Bigger and better things await, but for one night, coach and players will reunite on the gridiron for a final go-at-it when the 28th annual Mahoning Valley Coaches Association Jack Arvin Classic All-Star football game takes place at Girard Arrowhead Stadium. The game pits the Mahoning/Columbiana All-Stars against standouts from Trumball County.

Kopachy will coach the Mahoning/Columbiana team that will feature the former Quakers.

"I chose to coach this game to get one more chance to coach these four seniors," Kopachy said. "They along with (Austin) Noel and (James) Norkus exemplify what we wanted out of our young people. They are great people and great people."

Noel and Norkus will compete in the Penn-Ohio Stateline at East Liverpool High School.

"I believe that they will show the rest of the area in this game that we had some good ball players over the last few years," Kopachy added. "Just as (Trent) Toothman, (Ben) Eisel, Matt Taylor, Eric Bailey, Justin Adams and Mike King have in recent ball games."

Noel was the Quakers' resident standout in the backfield. He finished his Quaker career with a 205-yard performance in a 27-7 win over rival West Branch in Week 10. The yards gave the senior star 1,289 on the season.

"Noel was just a special player," Kopachy said. "He was such a hard worker. He was the best back and tackler I've coached."

In his three years at Salem, Kopachy watched Norkus grow into a 6-foot-2, 260-pound presence upfront on both sides of the ball. Schuster and Pierce also matured. Schuster developed into linebacker to be reckoned with. Pierce found a home at nose guard. Norkus and Schuster shined in the Quakers' 17-0 shutout of Canton South in Week 6. The Wildcats' best scoring chance came in the final seconds when South went for it on 4th-and-12 at the Quaker 12. It was the last play of the night and ended when Schuster and Norkus combined for a sack. Schuster and Norkus each had a solo sack earlier in the game. One of Pierce's best performances came in the win against West Branch. He frustrated the Warrior offense with two sacks and a fumble recovery.

"Norkus started as a boy and became a man in his time as a center and a defensive lineman," Kopachy said. "Max's and Jordan's potential were both realized this past season."

Penick too made noise against the Warriors. He also made history. Penick broke Salem's career-reception record with a catch as time expired in the season-ending game. With 1:39 left to play, he still needed two catches to surpass Ben Eisel's 130 receptions and West Branch had the ball. Those last two receptions were made possible when Warriors fumbled. Ironically, it was Penick who jumped on the loose ball. Penick then caught back-to-back 1-yard passes to rewrite the record books.

"Penick had a great career statistically," Kopachy said. "I'm anxious to see how he matches up with the Trumbull secondary."

Like Norkus, Manypenny was a pivotal part of the Quakers' line. The two-way starter battled injuries and illness but fought through it to emerge as game-changer and as a leader. His leadership role on the field was no more evident than in Salem's down-to-the-wire-win at Niles McKinley in Week 3. The Quakers led 7-3 with a minute to play, and the Red Dragons were knocking on Salem's door. Unable to shut down McKinley on two fourth-down situations, the Quakers had allowed the Dragons to advance all the way to the Salem 21. That's when Manypenny stepped in. On first down, the Dragons snapped the ball to quarterback Zack Bailey and Manypenny was there to sack the senior signal caller and turn first-and-10 into 2nd-and-17. Three incomplete passes later, the Quakers took over and sealed the victory.

"Manypenny became a leader on the line for us at Salem," Kopachy said. "He is one of the toughest kids I've ever coached."

The Jack Arvin Classic All-Star football game will be held 7 p.m. on June 21. The Penn-Ohio Stateline Classic is set for 7 p.m. on June 29. Tickets for both games will available at the gates.



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