Erie Save an Eye All-Star Football Game Outcome Depends on Final Game

Kyle Shaffer, who is bound for the United States Air Force Academy, was in the air during the last snap of his football career.

Shaffer, a defensive back for Union City County, found himself covering for Metro wide receiver Stephen Lebron in the county end zone after the last snap of Friday’s 84.e Erie Lions Club Save an Eye game at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

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With no more time on the clock, Shaffer edged out Lebron, an Erie High graduate. Shaffer jumped in and fended off the potential 28-yard pass to Lebron from McDowell’s Metro quarterback Jacob Skolnik.

Had Lebron caught the ball for a touchdown, the Metro would have come within two points of County and gone for a 2-point conversion tying the game with no more time.

Shaffer ended such drama with a pass breakup that secured County’s 27-19 victory.

Shaffer said the game was very satisfying because of what happened before the snap.

“Honestly, I saw their coach (Andre Henderson from Metro) pointing the finger at me. So I knew they were coming to me,” he said. “That game was so great because it was the winning game. There’s no better feeling.

Shaffer also had five tackles and returned a kickoff for County, which beat the Underground for the second time since Save an Eye officials switched to its current format three years ago.

County won 23-13 in 2019 and Metro 29-21 a year ago. There was no match in 2020 due to COVID-19 precautions.

During the annual Save An Eye charity football game, County team member Tristin Harris, center, returns a kick for a touchdown against Team Metro at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Erie on July 29, 2022.

Fort LeBoeuf star Tristin Harris’ last hurray

Shaffer was not the only County player to put up a standout performance in his farewell to competitive football.

Fort LeBoeuf graduate Tristin Harris, whose blue and white playing uniform was similar to the one he wore as a Bison, recorded the county’s first two touchdowns.

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The first was an 86-yard kickoff return, the first in a Save an Eye game since a 92-yarder from Javon Rowan (Cathedral Prep) in 2006. It was a quick 4-yard rush counter from Skolnik for the initial subway touchdown.

“We took special teams very seriously (during training),” Harris said. “This (kick-off return) went the way the coaches said it would happen. I would have a man to beat, and that’s what happened.

Harris also ran for a 3-yard score with 36 seconds left in the first half. This helped County take a 14-13 halftime advantage and a lead they never relinquished.

Harris finished with 58 rushing yards. He also intercepted a pass from Skolnik on the last play of the first half.

“It was really nice to come here one last time,” Harris said. “It was so much fun.”

Fort LeBoeuf athletes honored

While Harris was praised for his play on Friday, two other LeBoeuf graduates and County teammates were celebrated at halftime.

Adam Lichtinger and Dom Gentile each received $1,000 as the first recipients of the Tyco Swick Legacy Foundation Scholarship. They were honored in midfield, where they posed with their parents, Swick and other Save an Eye officials.

Lichtinger and Gentile were involved in a garage fire on April 14. They were spending the night at the LeBoeuf Township home of Ben Turi, a 2020 LeBoeuf graduate, and his mother, Renee.

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Lichtinger and Gentile believed that Ben Turi was in the garage at the time of the fire. They immediately realized that was not the case, but were injured in their escape.

Gentile suffered burns to his hands, cuts to his face and stomach, and stitches to his knee.

Lichtinger suffered second- and third-degree burns that left him a patient at UPMC Mercy Burn Center in Pittsburgh for several weeks.

Each, however, recovered in time to return to class last spring. Lichtinger, a javelin thrower, was even able to join LeBoeuf’s track team before the District 10 track meet.

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“I really appreciate this (scholarship). I didn’t expect that,” Lichtinger said. “It’ll help me with college, so it’ll go for something good.”

Lichtinger, who will attend West Virginia, wore a compression sleeve on his left arm on Friday. However, he said he was almost to the point where he was not consciously thinking about his injuries.

Gentile will attend Slippery Rock and serve in the U.S. Army National Guard.

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New All-Star Game Direction

While Swick has been involved in the Save an Eye game for over 50 years, Friday’s was the first he hadn’t been in charge of since 1971.

Swick, 83, stepped down as game director this year. Joe DeMartino was his designated successor.

The creation of the Tyco Swick Legacy Foundation Scholarship was announced at Thursday’s Save an Eye banquet at the Bel-Aire Conference Center. Swick had no idea beforehand.

“A total surprise,” Swick said. “But what I want to say is the great job the new maintainers are doing (with the game). They followed the model we established, but they improved it. I was told that we had broke a new publicity record, which is a big part of it all.

The game is the second longest running high school charity football game in the nation. He is dedicated to providing eye care to needy children in Erie County and visually impaired support services.

More secondary support

Friday’s game featured more student cheerleaders on the sidelines. The Harbor Creek cheerleaders were designated supporters for the county, while the Metro players were cheered on by cheerleaders from Erie High and McDowell.

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The McDowell cheerleaders included members of her competitive-minded squad. The Trojans have won four PIAA mixed college championships since 2017, including the last two.

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Savannah Sack was a McDowell freshman with last season’s state title rosters.

“Not only is it an honor to be part of a state championship team, it’s an honor to know all of the members of it,” Sack said. “We have such amazing staff.”

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Contact Mike Copper at mcopper@timesnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ETNcopper.

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