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Tonawanda’s Boling has big game in lifting North to Lions win

There’s no doubt that Tristan Boling is a talented football player.

The Tonawanda product earned a scholarship to play at Division II Mercyhurst after doing a little bit of everything for the Warriors during his four seasons as a starter.

In case no one saw him play during that time, he put on a show for the estimated 3,000 in attendance at the 40th Kensington Lions Senior All-Star Football Classic on Wednesday night at Depew’s Constantino Sports Complex.

Boling caught seven passes for 74 yards and two touchdowns on fourth-down plays to help spark the North to a 26-10 triumph over the South.

Boling had to outleap two defenders on his first touchdown reception, a lofty 5-yard pass from Williamsville South’s Sam Castronova. That wiped out a 3-0 deficit late in the third quarter. Starting there, the North outscored its foe, 26-7, during the final 16 minutes, 10 seconds.

Not bad for a converted quarterback.

“I’ve been working all offseason, just working on my routes and footwork hoping it would pay off,” said Boling. “It did today. We got the ‘W.’ ”

While he served as signal-caller the last two seasons for Tonawanda, he did set the single-season reception mark as a sophomore. Still, Wednesday’s performance gives Boling some momentum heading into his first college training camp Aug. 12 in Erie, Pa.

He made plays against the top senior talents from Western New York and did so when his teammates needed them most. His second TD came with 2:59 left after South had pulled within 13-10. North Tonawanda’s Chris Woodard hooked up with his T-NT rival from 19 yards to give North a two-score advantage.

“Before the play we just said let’s make a T-NT connection,” Boling said. “I just faked the post and faded out. I was wide open.”

“He’s a big body, he runs good routes. He has good hands,” said North coach Rich Robbins. “I know at Tonawanda he did a little bit of everything. If a kid like that plays at Canisius or St. Joe’s or Orchard Park he probably gets a lot more attention. … Everyone’s going to remember his name after tonight.”

Boling said he knew all three North quarterbacks, Castronova, Woodard and Medina’s Jason Hellwig, for a while. That explains why he had good chemistry with all three in this game as teams only had six days to prepare for the contest. In past years, teams had 12 days.

“Seeing him transition from quarterback to receiver just speaks to the type of athlete he is,” South coach Brian Wilson said. “He does a nice job.”

Boling wasn’t the only North talent to go out with a bang. Canisius linebacker James Thomas turned the all-star game into his personal state title game. The second-team All-Western New York linebacker who sat out Canisius’ win over Stepinac due to an automatic suspension after being ejected from the Monsignor Martin final, returned a fumble 65 yards for the game’s final points. He also had two sacks, tipped a pass and made eight tackles.

Thomas said he appreciated having one last opportunity to represent the Crusaders before heading off to Division III power John Carroll.

“It’s crazy,” Thomas said. “First I saw him bobble it, then fumble it. First instinct was to pick it up because coach always tells us we’re athletes, we don’t fumble and that’s what I did.

“I’m just blessed that I was able to play and represent the school one more time.”