After months of anticipation and a week of practice, the South team thought they had what it took to defeat the North in the 39th annual Lions All Star Football game at Modesto Junior College.
They had formed bonds, found team chemistry and developed a high degree of confidence, but by the end of Saturday’s game it was apparent that enthusiasm alone could not compensate for lack of preparation.
“I don’t think that they were much more talented than us,” South coach Richie Alkire said. “I think it was the short practice time and its effect on the execution. We also had too many penalty flags, which will happen when you only have three to four days of camp.”
Penalties plagued the South throughout the All Star matchup, killing the team’s momentum and disrupting its offensive rhythm. Hilmar High quarterback Andrew Olson was pressured early and often, forcing hurried throws and frequent trips outside of the pocket. The harassment resulted in an unusually inaccurate throwing performance for Olson.
As the South struggled to produce, the North began to implement a physical and fast running attack with McNair High’s Dalemaria Williams and Stagg High’s Maurice Boyc. The North threatened to score early in the first quarter but was thwarted by Buhach Colony’s Prince Hallion who recovered a fumble on the 11 yard line. After a three and out by the South, Stagg’s Brian Wood drove his team down the field and found his brother, Ryan Wood, in the corner of the end zone for a spectacular pass and grab touchdown, putting the North up 7-0.
By halftime the South trailed 10-0.
The South’s woes continued in the second half. The North’s defensive line consistently pushed back the South’s offensive line as Olson and Co. continued to commit penalties and give up the occasional turnover. With 31 seconds left in the third quarter, the North scored another touchdown off a quarterback sneak, crushing the South’s morale and putting them in a do or die situation.
Alkire responded with a renewed running attack led by Central Catholic High’s Sterling Shaw in what turned out to be the South’s best offensive series of the game — but the scoreboard maintained its elusiveness as Oakdale High’s Justin Martin missed a 37 yard field goal attempt, his second miss of the game.
The North scored twice more in the fourth quarter as Boyc scampered for a 60 yard touchdown with 4:16 on the clock and West High’s Patrick Thomspon ran a 45 yard touchdown in with less than five seconds on the clock.
“I thought our defense played great but we gave them a short field the whole game,” Alkire said. “On top of that, our big runs got called back each time, so it really took away from our momentum.”