SCALZO: West is best — thanks to Tuslaw's Cybak

Joe Scalzo
Updated: Saturday, July 15, 2017
Tuslaw's John Cybak made pair of second-half field goals for the West, including the game-winner with 1.1 second left in the 28th annual Canton Repository-Malone University East-West All-Star Football Game at Bob Commings Field, July 15, 2017.  (FridayNightOhio.com / Ray Stewart)<br /><div id="dfp-300x250" style="float:right;"><script type="text/javascript">googletag.display("dfp-300x250");</script></div>
Tuslaw's John Cybak made pair of second-half field goals for the West, including the game-winner with 1.1 second left in the 28th annual Canton Repository-Malone University East-West All-Star Football Game at Bob Commings Field, July 15, 2017. (FridayNightOhio.com / Ray Stewart)


PLAIN TWP.  Seconds after Tuslaw’s John Cybak became the unlikeliest hero of — let’s just go ahead and say it — the best East-West All-Star Classic in its 28-year history, Perry’s Nick Myers walked over, slapped him five and said, “Hey, kickers are people, too.”
 
Cybak doesn’t play for one of Stark County’s flashy programs. Outside of punters (and maybe guards), Cybak plays the least glamorous position on the football field. He’s been kicking since seventh grade, but it wasn’t until he had already graduated that he got the chance to make the first game-winning field goal of his high school career.
 
Click to see HIGHLIGHTS.
 
When asked Saturday night if he thought he’d be one getting interviewed afterward, he laughed and said, “No, I just thought I’d be the kicker. Like usual.”
 
That all changed in the final seconds at Bob Commings Field. After giving up what looked like the game-winning touchdown with 41.8 seconds left, the West somehow put together a mish-mash of a drive that ended at the East 27 with just over five seconds left seconds left.

Cybak had made game-winners in practice all week — OK, he did miss one — and when West coach Jeff Lindesmith asked him at the beginning of the drive if he could make it from 50, Cybak said sure. Lindesmith’s response: “All right, we’ll try to get you a few more yards.”

“The whole time, I was just thinking, ‘I need to be ready,’” Cybak said. “When the time came, I trusted in everyone else and I trusted myself that I could do it.”

Cybak’s holder, Massillon quarterback Seth Blankenship, trusted him too.

“He's been hitting everything perfect all week in practice, so I was confident when he went out there,” Blankenship said. “A 44-yard kick is nothing to joke around with, but as soon as it left his foot, I knew it was good.” 

It may not have been good from 50, but it was plenty good from 44.

Thing is, when asked afterward if he knew how long it was, Cybak laughed and said, “No, I just lined up and kicked it.”

Of course, Cybak had no time to celebrate, since there was still 1.1 seconds left and the West still needed him to execute a squib kickoff. But after one of those hold-your-breath, lateral-heavy returns, Jackson linebacker Jack Dear landed on a fumbled lateral and the West could finally celebrate their 35-33 victory.

Wide receiver Tevion Cleveland did a backflip in the end zone. Lindesmith grinned and, in a subtle nod to Central’s last-second state championship win, said, “Another fun game, huh? We’ll take them to the end.” The West players celebrated like it was a playoff win.

“It’s just that competitive mentality,” Blankenship said. “No one wants to lose anything. No matter what it took, we wanted to win.” 

Last year’s East-West game was over by halftime. This year’s wasn’t over until probably 20 seconds after the clock hit 0:00. 

The game didn’t end until 9:50 p.m. and still you were left wanting more. 

Maybe that’s why West linebacker Chase Altier of Jackson deserves the last word. As he walked toward the end zone for the game-ending huddle, he turned and said, “So, who we got next week?"

 

 

Reach Joe at 330-580-8573 or

 

joe.scalzo@cantonrep.com

 

On Twitter: @jscalzoREP