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Turlock players shine in All-Star victory
Pitman’s Stout earns game MVP award
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The South team poses for a group photo after a decisive 38-13 victory over the North in the 47th Central California Lions All-Star Game held at Tracy High School on Saturday (SAMANTHA SCHMIDT/The Journal).

TRACY — Pitman’s Joey Stout and Turlock’s Cole Gilbert took turns leading the South offense Saturday night at the 47th Central California Lions All-Star Football Game, held at Tracy High’s Wayne Schneider Stadium.

Stout, Gilbert and a handful of other local football standouts helped the South earn a 38-13 win over the North team. This was the first game since 2019 and the fourth victory for the South in the last five contests.

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Pitman's Joey Stout, representing the South team, accepts the Most Valuable Player award after the 47th Annual Central California Lions All-Star Game held at Tracy High School (SAMANTHA SCHMIDT/The Journal).

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Celebrating a South team touchdown, Pitman's Joey Stout is lifted into the air by Fermin Villegas (Le Grand) (SAMANTHA SCHMIDT/The Journal).

Stout got the scoring parade started for the South with a thrilling 78-yard touchdown scamper and added another score on a second-period 22-yard touchdown pass from Golden Valley’s Eleazar Garza. Stout pulled in eight receptions for 105 yards and Garza was the game’s offensive MVP with two touchdown passes on 220 passing yards and 31 rushing yards.

“It was awesome,” Stout said, who was award the game’s MVP award. “It was fun to be out and have the chance to come out here and be around all these talented players.”

Gilbert and Garza cycled at quarterback with Gilbert tallying 105 passing yards and 25 rushing yards. With about three plays left in the contest Gilbert was injured on a tackle.

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Turlock High’s Cole Gilbert of the South prepares to run the ball (Photo by SEAN KAHLER).

“It was me against three guys right there at the end of the game,” Gilbert said. “When I went down they fell on my leg and messed up my ankle.

“The rest of the game went well. Throughout the while game I think we knew we were better than them so we just executed and tried not to make mistakes. We had a lot of talent across the board and everyone on our team pulled through to get the win.”

Hilmar’s Luis Vargas made 10 tackles for the South, which held the north scoreless until late in the second quarter. The South made three interceptions, two by defensive MVP Roland Brown of Central Catholic and one by Central Catholic’s Jaelen Nichols.

Golden Valley’s Jahkylie Smith tallied 1- and 4-yard touchdown runs for the South.

The game marked the end of a long and illustrious coaching career for Oakdale’s Trent Merzon, head coach of the South.

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Landon Gomes of Hilmar playing for the South team braces for impact with Linden's Lanticse (SAMANTHA SCHMIDT/The Journal).

“I have been doing this for close to 30 years,” Merzon said. “But football for me has always been a tool in my toolbox and not my entire toolbox. I am looking forward to the next endeavors of my life which include being a better husband and better father, getting to watch my daughter play softball in the fall and getting to watch high-school football games. I love high school football, I’m a huge fan and I can’t wait to find a good game on a Friday night and watch it.”

North coach Booker Guyton from Edison in Stockton always wanted to coach against Merzon.

“These are all kids who have busted their butts their senior year and this is their reward,” Guyton said. “Trent Merzon has had a great and stellar career and I hate that he is giving it up.

“I had hoped to coach against him one day in other than an all-star game but hey, he had a great career and he is going out in style.”