Avoca’s Thor Balavage, Old Forge’s Mando Sallavanti serve as captains in Dream Game


By Tom Robinson - For Sunday Dispatch



Scranton Prep’s Thor Balavage, an Avoca resident and member of the City (blue) team, attempts to get past a blocker during the 82nd Annual Dream Game July 20 at John Henzes Veterans Memorial Stadium. The City defeated the County, 35-8.


Stephanie Walkowski | For Sunday Dispatch

Old Forge’s Cooper Califano, of the County team, prepares to field a punt during the 82nd Annual Dream Game July 20 at John Henzes Veterans Memorial Stadium. The City defeated the County, 35-8.


Stephanie Walkowski | For Sunday Dispatch

Old Forge’s Mike Cantarella, of the County (red) team, blocks for Abington Heights quarterback Jordan Hollander during the 82nd Annual Dream Game July 20 at John Henzes Veterans Memorial Stadium. The City defeated the County, 35-8.


Stephanie Walkowski | For Sunday Dispatch


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    PECKVILLE – Thor Balavage expects to never play another football game.

    The Avoca resident and recent Scranton Prep graduate celebrated by completing a play he had never made before.

    Balavage’s first career interception was part of the City’s 35-8 victory over the County in the 82nd annual Dream Game before a crowd of 7,468 Wednesday night at John Henzes/Veterans Memorial Stadium.

    The Scranton Lions Club-sponsored game features recent graduates of Lackawanna Football Conference schools. Old Forge had five players, all starters, leading the County team, but the City featured players from Scranton Prep, Delaware Valley and Dunmore, all of which won or shared titles in divisions for larger schools.

    Balavage was a major contributor to Scranton Prep winning its first District 2 Class AAA title and sharing the LFC Division 1 championship. His senior season went so well – including second-team Class AAA all-state defensive end honors from the Pennsylvania Football News – that it turned into a difficult choice of a college sport before he settled on wrestling on the NCAA Division II level at Newman College in Kansas.

    With one week to prepare for his final football game, Balavage earned a starting spot at defensive end and designation as one of six captains for the City team.

    Balavage made two tackles and two assists, but there was one play he was most excited about when the game was over.

    “I was going for a pick-six, but I’ll take an interception to end my high school career,” Balavage said. “I get to end it with an interception, something I’ve never gotten to do, so I’m real excited for that.”

    The City had just scored with 16.5 seconds left in the half to open a 21-0 lead.

    On the next play, the County tried to throw a screen pass to the left side. Balavage read the play and headed toward Riverside back Mikkell Green.

    Green juggled the pass. As the ball bounced away from Green, Balavage dove and picked it off the grass for an interception.

    “It came right off his hands,” Balavage said. “It’s kind of like being in slow motion.

    “My eyes got big when I saw the ball bobbling around.”

    Balavage enjoyed the overall experience of playing in the game, which benefits sight preservations projects. He said he hopes to keep contact with City teammates who were “once enemies, but now friends.”

    The five players from last year’s Class A state semifinalist gave Old Forge the largest representation on the County roster. All five wound up starting together on offense.

    All-state linebacker and East Stroudsburg University recruit Mando Sallavanti took it a step further, starting on both sides of the ball and serving as one of four County captains. He was one of just two players to start both ways.

    Tailback Cooper Califano, wide receiver Jaret Horn, tackle Mike Cantarella and center Christian Mitchell also represented the Blue Devils.

    Sallavanti mainly played tight end on offense in high school. He did fill in at both tailback and fullback, the position where he started in the Dream Game.

    In addition to making three tackles on defense, Sallavanti gained 17 yards on five carries.

    Califano led the County ground game with 50 yards on 7 carries. He did not carry again after needing to be helped up following his longest run, a 23-yarder in the third quarter to set up the only County touchdown. Califano also caught a pass for six yards and returned a punt for one yard.

    Scranton Prep’s Thor Balavage, an Avoca resident and member of the City (blue) team, attempts to get past a blocker during the 82nd Annual Dream Game July 20 at John Henzes Veterans Memorial Stadium. The City defeated the County, 35-8.
    http://psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/web1_PSD-Dream-Game-Balavage.jpgScranton Prep’s Thor Balavage, an Avoca resident and member of the City (blue) team, attempts to get past a blocker during the 82nd Annual Dream Game July 20 at John Henzes Veterans Memorial Stadium. The City defeated the County, 35-8. Stephanie Walkowski | For Sunday Dispatch

    Old Forge’s Cooper Califano, of the County team, prepares to field a punt during the 82nd Annual Dream Game July 20 at John Henzes Veterans Memorial Stadium. The City defeated the County, 35-8.
    http://psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/web1_PSD-Dream-Game-Califano.jpgOld Forge’s Cooper Califano, of the County team, prepares to field a punt during the 82nd Annual Dream Game July 20 at John Henzes Veterans Memorial Stadium. The City defeated the County, 35-8. Stephanie Walkowski | For Sunday Dispatch

    Old Forge’s Mike Cantarella, of the County (red) team, blocks for Abington Heights quarterback Jordan Hollander during the 82nd Annual Dream Game July 20 at John Henzes Veterans Memorial Stadium. The City defeated the County, 35-8.
    http://psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/web1_PSD-Dream-Game-Cantarella.jpgOld Forge’s Mike Cantarella, of the County (red) team, blocks for Abington Heights quarterback Jordan Hollander during the 82nd Annual Dream Game July 20 at John Henzes Veterans Memorial Stadium. The City defeated the County, 35-8. Stephanie Walkowski | For Sunday Dispatch

    By Tom Robinson

    For Sunday Dispatch

    Reach the Sunday Dispatch at 570-655-1418 or by email at [email protected]

    Reach the Sunday Dispatch at 570-655-1418 or by email at [email protected]

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