For seven months, Kevin Zehner's memories of his acclaimed Kingsway career carried a sour aftertaste.
Despite catching a long go-ahead touchdown with less than five minutes remaining, archrival Clearview had answered back late to upset the Dragons in their final game of the 2017 season, depriving Zehner of a perfect career record in the rivalry.
So in Zehner's unofficial high school finale — the Adam Taliaferro Foundation/South Jersey Football Coaches Association All-Star Football Classic, held Thursday night at Rowan University — the star receiver and Towson bound made sure his last New Jersey football memory was a sweet one.
The 6-foot-1 wideout made three catches and scored a touchdown for the victorious White Team, which topped the Blue Team, 26-13.
The lighthearted nature of the evening was on display only when Zehner had some fun celebrating his TD reception, orchestrating a mock free throw routine that involved all 10 on-field teammates.
"It was nice to get out, run a little bit, practice with some different guys," said Zehner. "I loved every second, every practice … and it was good just to get that winning feeling back."
Despite not taking up football until the seventh grade, Zehner became a dynamic all-purpose offensive weapon throughout his four years at Kingway and drew recruiting interest from several FCS schools before choosing Towson.
Zehner was supposed to be one of three Division I-bound players in the game, but the other two — Woodrow Wilson defensive end Travon King, a Temple commit, and St. Augustine safety Xavier File, an Army commit — were both late scratches from the lineup. Their absences were hardly noticeable, however, as both defenses dominated most of the night.
The Taliaferro Classic is a June staple that raises money for athletes who have suffered spinal injuries. Taliaferro began his foundation, which organizes the event, a year after being temporarily paralyzed while playing football for Penn State in 2000.
"I told the guys last night, if there was a way I could play one more high school football game, I'd give a lot to be able to do that," said Taliaferro. "To hear these guys thank me for this opportunity, it's the reason we do it. This is the lifeblood of South Jersey football here."
Blue Team 0 0 7 6 — 13
White Team 6 6 7 7 — 26
W: CJ Barrett 40-yard pass to Michael Johnson (kick failed)
W: Barrett 1-yard pass to Kevin Zehner (kick failed)
B: Purvis Hatcher 90-yard kickoff return (Clay Olley kick)
W: Tyreese Snipe blocked and recovered punt (Dave Burns kick)
W: Barrett 49-yard pass to Damon Rice (Burns kick)
B: Trae Green 20-yard pass to Kadin Pegram (2-point attempt failed)