PECKVILLE – On a night largely dominated by the offenses, Susquehanna graduate Garrett Decker was one of few defensive standouts in the 87th annual Dream Game.
Decker was the second-leading tackler in the game as a starting linebacker for the City in a 31-29 loss to the County Wednesday night at Valley View's John Henzes/Veterans Memorial Stadium in Peckville.
The teams combined for more than 800 yards as the City passing combination of West Scranton's Cayden Merrifield to North Pocono's Ryan Dolphin tried to offset the power running of Western Wayne's Zane Janiszewski for the County.
Decker made six tackles and assisted on two others. One of the tackles was for a loss.
Only Dunmore's Karl Kincel, a City teammate, had more tackles. He had 10 tackles and three assists.
Delaware Valley's Preston Machado led the County defense with six tackles and a broken-up pass.
Decker was one of three Susquehanna County players in the game.
Susquehanna teammate Gavin Baker and Montrose's Dominic Palmatier were both reserves for the City.
Palmatier had one tackle and Baker assisted on one.
In the game's return from a one-year absence caused by the pandemic, the County, coached by Lakeland's Dave Piwowarczyk, cut the City lead in the series to 42-40-4.
The City team was coached by Scranton Prep's Terry Gallagher and, although the County had a distinct advantage in terms of players who received higher levels of honors as high school all-stars, had a shot at the game-winning field goal with 15 seconds left.
Players from Scranton Prep, Scranton, West Scranton, Dunmore, North Pocono, Lackawanna Trail and Wallenpaupack joined the Susquehanna and Montrose players on the City roster.
The all-star game for graduated Lackawanna Football Conference players drew a paid crowd of 7,467.
They were treated to an entertaining offensive show, particularly in the second half.
After a scoreless first quarter, the City carried a 7-6 lead into the final play of the first half.
Merrifield's 35-yard touchdown pass to Scranton Prep's Ryan McAndrew opened the scoring.
Western Wayne's Zane Janiszewski, the game's leading rusher with 144 yards on 23 carries, scored the first County touchdown on a 5-yard run midway through the second.
The County moved in front, 12-7, when Delaware Valley's Mark Callanan returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown as time expired in the first half.
Janiszewski ran 9 yards for a touchdown and 18-7 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter before the teams combined for five touchdowns and two lead changes in a span of 6:42.
Merrifield ran 3 yards for a score and passed to Scranton Prep's Max Mulligan for the two-point conversion to begin the comeback.
Callanan again scored as time ran out, this time on a 28-yard pass from Riverside's Johnny Gilchrist on the last play of the third quarter to make it 25-15.
Merrifield threw touchdown passes of 85 yards to Scranton Prep's Vito Gianello and 24 yards to Ryan Dolphin to move the City into the lead.
That lead lasted just 26 seconds.
Delaware Valley's Aiden Oliver found Old Forge's Michael DiGregorio for the game-winning 56-yard touchdown with 6:50 left.
Merrifield and Dolphin connected for 57 more yards to set up the late field goal try.
Dolphin caught 10 passes for 202 yards. Merrifield was 15-for-27 for 362 yards.
Lackawanna Trail's Ray Melnikoff led the City in rushing with 12 carries for 55 yards.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com or followed on Twitter at @tomjrobinson.