TD catch by Mount Gilead star proves decisive in defensive struggle

BELLVILLE — It felt like old times for Matthew Bland.

There’s a reason the Mount Gilead standout was listed as both a quarterback and slotback on the South roster for Friday night’s 37th annual Blackstone NCOFCA All-Star Classic.

Lining up in the slot was always Bland’s thing until he switched to quarterback last fall and led the Indians to the Division VI playoffs.

When he got a chance to go back to catching the ball instead of throwing it, he made the most of it, reeling in the go-ahead 77-yard touchdown pass with 6:51 left in the South’s 14-6 victory over the North at Clear Fork High School.

“It was super cool to play (in the slot) one last time,” Bland said. “That’s what I had been doing my whole life and it was nice to go back there.”

When Mount Gilead’s No. 1 quarterback Carter Kennon suffered a season-ending injury in 2022, Bland stepped in for one of his best friends and earned first team All-Ohio honors, accounting for over 2,300 yards and 23 touchdowns passing and running.

Bland, sidelined his entire junior season by a knee injury, wore Kennon’s No. 7 Friday night and made sure that tribute would not go unnoticed when he and River Valley quarterback Cayden Shidone capitalized on a busted coverage in the North secondary for an easy score.

Bland’s catch and the PAT kick by Mansfield Senior’s Sean Putt put the South on top for good.

“I think that route there was a little miscommunication on (the North’s) part,” Bland said. “Cayden saw me open and threw it, and the rest is history.”

Sometimes those pass plays that look like layups are the ones that require the most concentration. You don’t want to blow the gimme.

“I wasn’t worried about dropping it,” Bland said. “Me and Cayden had been throwing all week (in practice) and had chemistry. We knew something like that was…

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Author : Mansfield News Journal

Publish date : 2023-06-10 10:37:50

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