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All-Star football game brings the action
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Turlock's Logan Durkee doesn't give his Northern opponent much ground to gain during the annual Lions Club All-Star game Saturday evening. The Bulldogs had a total of three players participate in this year's game (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

TRACY — Fans who attended Saturday night’s 48th Lions All-Star Football Game probably weren’t expecting much from the recently graduated seniors.

After all, it’s been more than six months since the players last stepped on the gridiron, and with temperatures at triple-digits for kickoff, well, let’s just say it wasn’t exactly a recipe for fantastic football.

Then again, who’s to say what goes into making an exciting high school football game?

Los Banos High’s David Herrera found Central Catholic’s Trace Hernandez in the back of the end zone with four seconds remaining, giving the South All-Stars an 18-15 victory in a game that was dominated by Merced High defensive end Jalonn Booth, who was a one-man wrecking crew all night long.

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Turlock's Kristian Guerrero blocks his opponent from advancing (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

The North stars were held scoreless for much of the contest, but two fourth-quarter touchdowns — the second coming with 1:15 showing on the clock — gave the North a 15-12 advantage.

Hughson’s Larkin Meyer picked up the ensuing kickoff and returned it to the North’s 46, with 1:08 showing.

After a sack, and a bit of poor clock management trying to get the next play off, Herrera scrambled to the 25 with just seconds to play, setting up his game-winning TD pass to his long-time friend, Hernandez.

According to Cal-Hi Sports, the receiver finished the game with six catches for 106 yards and had three carries for 10 yards. Herrera, the Western Athletic Conference’s MVP, completed 10 of 17 passes for 133 yards.

Booth, meanwhile, recorded five sacks and nine tackles … and was in position for at least four more sacks if not for the fancy footwork of St. Mary’s quarterback Samson Hunkin. In one instance, Booth was in position for a takedown, but collided with a fellow defender, allowing Hunkin to escape for a 29-yard scramble to the 16.

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Turlock High's Owen Miller shakes Hughson's head coach Shaun King's hand during the pregame introductions. King was selected as the head coach of the South team along with Roger Canepa of Central Catholic High School (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

But who chased down Hunkin and made the touchdown-saving tackle? 

Booth, that’s who.

“It’s nothing new,” said Merced Sun-Star veteran reporter Shawn Jansen, who’s covered Booth for four years. “He does it all the time.”

The Central California Conference MVP who played on the varsity since his freshman season, was named the game’s Defensive MVP , while Hunkin took home the Offensive MVP award.

Enochs’ Aiden Muhammad (13 carries, 77 yards) took home game’s overall MVP honors, though nobody was quite certain why that award didn’t go to Booth.

“We knew he was going to get MVP of this game,” said Hughson head coach Shaun King, who, along with Central Catholic’s Roger Canepa, was co-head coach of the South team. “That’s why we didn’t put him up for most inspirational, to be honest with you. And he is an inspiration.”

It was all the same to Booth, who happy just to be playing football again.

“It was a ball,” said Booth, who said he’s got the itch to play next season. “We’ll see what happens. I do look forward to having talks with coaches and making a decision.”

Several coaches and teammates were asked what came to mind when the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Booth’s name was mentioned.

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Hughson's Navi Arretche stops his Northern opponent (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Meyer: “Dawg! MVP! I wish I could play more with him.”

Hughson’s David Delgado: “Animal! The fact that he’s not going to college is a problem. All these D-I programs need to start contacting him and give him an offer now.”

Turlock High’s Owen Miller: “Crazy! I thought (Turlock’s) Logan Durkee was kind of kind of crazy, but he’s like a whole ’nother level. He played really well.”

Canepa: “The guy should go play college football. He’s got a great motor and I can relate to a guy like that. He was unstoppable.”

Hughson High linebacker David Burns: “Dawg! That guy is an all-star and I think he deserved full-game MVP with five sacks and so many pressures. He was the defense tonight. He’s a great guy; always energized and happy.”

Central Catholic offensive coordinator and former college QB Tim Garcia: “He was the best player on the field, no doubt about it. Physically, he just dominates the game. He’s really intelligent; football smart; he’s a great teammate; got a great attitude. The sky’s the limit for that kid.”

Billy Hylla, Central Catholic defensive coordinator: “The recruiters missed on that one. Flat out. We’ve been playing against him for four years. What recruiters told me this year was that they didn’t think he had the bulk to hold up on the edge and didn’t show the fluidity to play in coverage. And after spending one week with him … they’re wrong. He should be playing college football. He should be getting his school paid for. He’s a freak of nature. And he’s a great kid. … He’s a great teammate and so enthusiastic and positive about everything.”

Hughson assistant Chris Wolfley: “Corvette! I mean he’s just something special. He’s fun to coach and fun to be around. I just told him, ‘God’s got big plans for you.’

Meanwhile, Booth doesn’t see himself as anything special.

“It’s just will,” said Booth. “The will to be better than somebody, and beat the guy in front of you. I just make it a rule to do my job and not let my teammates down. I have 10 guys counting on me. I can’t let them down. That’s all it is.”