Turlock and Pitman football players united on Saturday to compete as part of the South team in the 43rd annual Lion’s All-Star Game at Tracy High’s Wayne Schneider Stadium.
All four of the local players were vital assets in a 28-20 win with the defense tallying five interceptions over the North that included a pick on the final play of the first half and late in the second half.
“The experience was great, it felt awesome to take the field again and coming out with the win just made it so much sweeter,” said Turlock defensive linemen Ronald Sharlou. “I can honestly say that this game was the most fun I'd had in the past eight months.”
It probably helped that their high-octane offense and defense were on point in Saturday's game and Sharlou had the help of Rylan Boutelle of Pitman on the defensive side, despite his ejection in the second half of the game after a contentious call.
“This kid kept trying to hit me in the back after the play was over and he tried to swing at me and I tried to block it and it looked like I tried to swing back,” said Boutelle of the minor incident that got him ejected.
Boutelle ended the game with a sack, which he got in the first half and over three tackles. Sharlou finished with five tackles and half a sack.
Along with Boutelle and Sharlou were two Turlock Bulldogs in Alex McKeon and Landon Curtis, who was a late addition to the South team that was led by Patterson's head coach, Rob Cozart.
“It took strategy on the sideline. It took scheme. It took adjustments and substitutions. It took it all,” Cozart said. “It was a great way for guys to end their high school career.”
Curtis played a pivotal role for the South's high-tempo offensive style as the No. 1 receiver for the Bulldogs this past season was effective throughout the game and played all four quarters, including over 90 percent of snaps on offense.
“On Monday I got a text from coach Cozart who asked if I wanted to play receiver for the South team,” said Curtis. “They had a couple guys drop and so they wanted me to come fill the spot and it was a great experience. I got really close with a lot of the guys down there during the week.”
Curtis finished the game with three critical grabs.
“It was definitely worth it and I had a blast,” said Curtis. “When I first got the text I was hesitant about saying yes but I just told myself why not and just go one last ride. The talent out there was very high and things seemed a little faster than normal.”
McKeon was involved throughout the entire game as well, playing from start to finish as a linemen for the South team that racked up 28 points in a messy game.
“I started at left tackle every offensive drive,” said McKeon. “And the experience was awesome. I loved the atmosphere and how all of the guys came together to beat the North. Honestly, my favorite part was proving all the people who predicted the North to win, wrong.”
Both sides combined for 11 turnovers and a large number of penalties but the South, which has won three of the last four Lions' games, was able to overcome the lack of consistency with their big playmakers late in the fourth quarter.
After three quarters and three straight turnovers by the South, the North held a 20-14 lead but the South retaliated with coach Cozart's up-tempo offense.
The first score came from quarterback Adam Herrera of Los Banos, who entered after an early injury to starter Adam Olsen.
Herrer was able to engineer a 65-yard, eight play drive for the game-tying score with just 7:37 left and scored on a two-yard run.
The South stayed committed with its running game and stuck with the game plan after tallying 233 rushing yards for the game, despite being down six players due to unusual circumstances.
Finally, Central Catholic’s Jacob Days put the nail in the coffin with a 27-yard interception return for the 28-20 final score.
Despite the South’s recent success in three of the last four games, the North leads the all-time series 25-16-2.