By Rob Kiser
CENTERVILLE — Piqua’s Alex Nees and Miami East’s Braxton Donaldson and Caden Hellyer all went out winners in their final high school football games.
And Covington assistant coach Dave Tobias received a well-deserved honor at the Miami Valley Football Coaches Association Pigskin Classic Friday night at Centerville High School.
The three local players played for the North — whose staff included Piqua coach Bill Nees and Miami East coach Max Current — who defeated the South 31-28.
For Alex Nees, it was particularly special — the final game he shared the sidelines with his father and high school coach Bill Nees.
“We had a moment at halftime where we looked at each other and both said ‘two more quarters’ at the same time,” Alex said. “It was kind of ironic. I loved playing in this game. But, it wouldn’t have been the same if we hadn’t won.”
Nees had two tackles and a pass defensed — and the future Ashland Eagle did it while playing with a torn ACL, something he did for much of his high school season.
“I did it against Vandalia-Butler,” Nees said. “I didn’t miss any games. I only missed a series or two. I didn’t even know it was torn until January.”
And Nees, who also played in the Ohio North-South game, wasn’t going to miss one last opportunity to take the field in a high school uniform.
“There really isn’t any pain,” Nees, who wore a brace, said. “I just said the heck with it. I loved playing in this game.”
Donaldson, who made the move to tight end for the game, threw some key blocks for the North in a H-back type of roll.
“I got used to it in practice and I loved playing in this game,” he said about the position switch. “I have never played in a game like this with a bunch of all-stars.”
And it was the leg of Donaldson which became pivotal late in the game.
With just over 10 minutes remaining and the North clinging to a 31-28 lead, the North had to punt from its own 26.
Donaldson launched a cannon shot and by the time the South recovered a muff, it was a net 64-yard kick, putting the South at its own 10 and giving them a long field. The North would eventually stop them near midfield.
“I knew they couldn’t rush (rules for the game),” Donaldson, who will play at The Cumblerlands next year, said. “So, I squared it up and it just kept going.”
Hellyer had seven tackles from his linebacker position.
“It was a lot of fun,” Helleyer, who will play for the Rose Hulman Institute next year, said. “You are used to playing in a game where there are five or six guys who are good playing. In this game, everybody is good.”
Both Donaldson and Hellyer saw action on the defensive line on the South’s final drive.
“I had a couple snaps at defensive end,” Hellyer said with a smile. “This was a great way to end my high school career.”
Before the game, a number of scholarships were awarded. Included in the recipients were Nees and Miami East graduate Scot Kirby.
At halftime, Tobias was inducted into the MVFCA Assistant Coaches Hall of Fame.
As quarterback, Tobias led Covington to the state championship game in 1979 and he went on to play at Wittenberg, where he played in the Division III national championship game.
After a short stint as Wittenberg assistant and four years as an assistant coach at Portsmouth Notre Dame, he has been a long time coach at Covington, including four years as varsity coach. Tobias has been instrumental in the success of the Buccs program.
He continues a trend of local coaches being inducted in the MVFCA Hall.
In 2014, former Piqua and Lehman coach Chuck Asher and Piqua coaching legend George Wertz were inducted into the Hall, followed by the late Doug Swartz of Covington in 2015 as an assistant coach.