WILLIAMSVILLE—There was no player from either team that had a better opening series of plays than Mike Hannon in the 43rd annual Lions All-Star Classic football game that honors the best area senior high school football players. The game ended in a 36-0 victory for Hannon’s South team, but not before the Alfred University-bound Springville representative set the tone.
Early momentum had a hand in South’s first score and most of that could be attributed to the play of Hannon on that opening series. Not only did he help give his team great offensive field position to get the game’s first score, but his play changed the entire North strategy moving forward.
On the game’s opening play, Hannon wrapped up North’s runner for a five-yard loss. After an incomplete pass attempt on their second play, North tried to run again with Hannon making a second tackle and helping knocking the ball free for one of his teammates to recover.
The turnover led to the only score South would need as the South defense put on an all-star performance of its own.
“North had a bigger team with bigger guys so walking into that game we knew we had to be the more aggressive team,” Hannon said. “From the very first play where I got the guy for the five-yard loss our defense just clicked. We only practiced for a week, but it already felt like we were a family. I thought that was my best defensive game of the year, they could not beat me one-on-one.”
Hannon needed just two snaps to accrue his two unassisted tackles, with one for a loss, and combined those with a forced fumble on the first series.
For most of the rest of the game the North team chose to use two or three blockers to neutralize the 300-pound Springville defensive tackle, but even that couldn’t stop Hannon from recording a half-dozen stops through just over three quarters of playing time.
The North’s frustration was never more apparent when Hannon broke through the line and chased the quarterback in the end zone, only to have his helmet ripped from his face.
The only thing more impressive than Hannon’s performance was his presence on the field after doctors told him that there was nearly no chance of his ankle healing in time to be on the South roster, but just three days before the South’s practices began Hannon got medical clearance to join the team.
“I was excited for him especially with him coming off an ankle injury that had cut into his training in the spring. I thought he not only stood his own, but played exceptionally well,” Springville varsity football coach Rob Valenti said. “I think the thing I liked the most that was a compliment to [Hannon] and his parents was how many coaches approached me during the game and after to compliment [his] work ethic, his character and the gregarious personality that he has and how much fun he was to coach for the South team staff leading up to the game. They also said he was vocal and happy and that other players from other schools loved being around him.”
Part of Hannon’s popularity came about during the week of practice leading up to the game where he became somewhat of a folk hero after teammates learned he was the lone South team member to had driven a tractor to school.
“I’m very grateful to have had [Valenti] as a coach and everything’s he’s done for me,” Hannon said about his time at Springville.