Southern California's High School Sports Blog

Football: South Pulls Off Huge Comeback in OC All-Star Classic (1/27/18)

South attempts to block North kicker Max Meyers field goal in South 30-27 victory on Saturday. Photo/Mark Bausman

I guess it’s how you start and how you finish.

After the South scored on the first series of the game, the North scored 24 unanswered points, but the South came roaring back for a 30-27 victory over the North in the 59th Orange County All-Star Football Classic on Saturday night at Orange Coast College.

This was the first time the OC All-Star game, which is run by Costa Mesa United and the Los Angeles Chargers, was played in January after exclusively being played in the summer.

Austin Derrico catches a 3 yard touchdown pass for South in their 30-27 victory over the North. Photo/Mark Bausman

The South began the game with the ball and scored in just over a minute after Cooper Jones of El Toro of Lake Forest connected with his El Toro teammate Shane McLaughlin on a 45-yard TD pass for a 7-0 lead, but the South ended up struggling for the majority of the game thanks to five turnovers, including three interceptions. Jonoven Smith of Fullerton had two of those picks and Isaiah Alcocer of La Habra had the other one for the North.

The North was only able to score 10 points in the first half, but added 14 more in the third quarter thanks to two touchdown passes from TJ McMahon of Servite of Anaheim to make it 24-7 as the third quarter came to an end.

The South got the ball in the beginning of the fourth quarter and QB Josiah Norwood of Santa Margarita of Rancho Santa Margarita led them on a scoring drive. Norwood’s runs set up a 3-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Austin Derrico of El Toro to make it 24-14 with 8:23 left. The North’s ensuing possession ended with Louis Harden of San Clemente recovering a fumble for the South at the North’s 28. Jones threw a 26-yard pass to Seth Gilmore of Tesoro of Rancho Santa Margarita which was fumbled and recovered by Derrico. Norwood ran in a 2-yard touchdown a play later to make it 24-21.

North’s Dylan Nicholson runs past South’s JT Murphy in South 30-27 victory over the North. Photo/Mark Bausman

The South recorded a safety on the ensuing kickoff to to close the gap to 24-23. The North got a 40-yard field goal by Max Meyers of Canyon of Anaheim to make it a 27-23 for the North.

The South needed one play on their next drive as Jones connected with Derrico for a 45-yard touchdown pass to give the South a 30-27 lead and eventually the comeback victory in one the best games in OC All-Star football history.

Derrico was named MVP for the South, while Smith took the MVP honors for the North.

“Our coaches didn’t panic,” South coach Jaime Ortiz of San Clemente said. “Our kids didn’t panic. Honestly, it reminded me of our 2016 season where we came back three or four different times. We stayed the course and when we scored to make it 24-14, I thought about onside kicking it and we didn’t. We just said to play good defense and we got the ball back. Getting that safety was huge on that kickoff return. We had five turnovers and you can’t expect to win with five turnovers, but the kids persevered and did a great job.”

Seth Giomore makes the catch in South 30-27 victory over the North. Photo/Mark Bausman

SCORE: South 30, South 27

RECORDS: The South extended it lead in the series to 30-26-3 after winning it’s ninth All-Star game in the last 10 meetings.

KEY STATS: In a game that had superstar running backs, the running game was controlled by a quarterback. Norwood led all rushers with 91 yards on eight carries for the South. He also completed 9 of 15 passes for 85 yards with two interceptions. The South’s passing game was led by Jones, who completed 6 of 12 passes for 134 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Derrico caught four passes for 63 yards and two touchdowns. Mitch Dossey of Mission Viejo had eight tackles for the South. … McMahon was 12 of 16 for 184 yards and two touchdowns for the North. His Servite teammate Dominic Wingfield caught four passes for 78 yards and a TD, while Nicholson caught four passes for 75 yards and a TD. Brandon Won of Sunny Hills of Fullerton had seven tackles on the night for the North.

QUOTABLE I: “We just kept on fighting,” Derrico said. “We never got down on ourselves. We started executing in the end when we needed it. We were pretty flat in the beginning, but we started to play together when we threw it down the field.”

North QB TJ McMahon dives near the endzone in South 30-27 victory over the North. Photo/Mark Bausman

QUOTABLE II: “We had to be patient,” Norwood said. “We just had to play our game. The first half was sloppy. I turned the ball over a couple of times. I knew we had the offensive talent and the ability and the coaching ability to just get past our mistakes. It worked out well for us tonight.”

QUOTABLE III: “I had to read the quarterback eyes,” Smith said. “I knew his main target was McLaughlin, so they had me over the top with him most of the time. I just read his eyes and play the ball.”

QUOTABLE IV: “I told the kids at halftime when we were down 10-7 to just keep on chopping,” Ortiz said. “Keep on chopping and good things will happen, then we go down two more scores and I thought this was going to get ugly, but give the kids all the credit in the world. They never quit. These kids have been together for six practices and they just played for each other, played for the coaches and that is something that is very unique. Very great opportunity to win the game in the end. The kids got the job done and they stepped up all together. It was incredible.”

QUOTABLE V: “We were worried about turning the ball over,” North coach Matt Mitchell of El Modena of Orange said. “Things we talked about prior to the game was turning the ball over. We turned it over in the Red Rone, obviously we had the safety on the kickoff return. It’s an All-Star game, (so) we don’t have enough time to practice those kinds of things. It was a good effort and I think the kids had a great time. It was a great experience.”

NOTES: The South’s comeback would not have been possible if it weren’t for the El Toro passing game. Jones connected for three touchdowns, all to his two Charger teammates, Derrico and McLaughlin. Nothing changed from the regular season for the kids of El Toro. “It felt good,” Derrico said. “It felt like the regular season. We have done that all year, just throw it downfield. It was a lot of fun.” … McLaughlin caught three passes for 58 yards and a TD, Al Fisher III of JSerra of San Juan Capistrano rushed for 53 yards on six carries, Noah Aguilar of El Toro had an interception, while James Williams of Tesoro, Zach Ritner of Capistrano Valley of Mission Viejo and Nolan Reeve of Capistrano Valley each had a sack for the South. … Despite having negative yardage on the ground, Zechariah Holifield of Villa Park rushed for a 1-yard touchdown that gave North the lead in the first half. Holifield also had a sack on the night. Alex Jung of Sunny Hills led the North in rushing with 45 yards on 11 carries. Justin Simpson of El Modena caught three passes for 44 yards, Dominique Thompson of Cypress caught three passes for 43 yards, Nikolaus Cenatiempo of Yorba Linda had a sack and Talik Sekona of Orange Lutheran had a fumble recovery for the North, which despite taking another heartbreaking loss, enjoyed the experience in a revamped All-Star game that drew close to 5,000 fans, an improvement from the last several years. “Overall, it was a great experience,” Mitchell said. “The Chargers did a great job and Costa Mesa United did a great job. They did some good things for the kids and I think the overall experience is good. The coaches had a great time with the kids. The kids were respectful and they appreciate everything that we did.” …

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