Kimball High graduate Gaige Allen gained Best Offensive Player honors in the 41st Annual Lions All Star Football Classic on Saturday after he emerged as the North team’s leading receiver.
Allen’s plays included two early touchdown receptions, plus another reception to set up a third touchdown as the North and South teams played to a 21-21 tie at Wayne Schneider Stadium.
It’s the second time in the 41-year history of the all star game that the contest among the area’s top high school football players ended in a tie. The teams also tied in 1982, when the score was 7-7. The North has won the annual game 24 times, including 10 of the last 12 games, and the South has won 15 times.
Allen, who is bound for Azusa Pacific College in August, played wide receiver on Saturday. He grabbed a pass from Tokay High quarterback Kelse DePauli-Wiltse on the third play of the game and ran it up the middle for a 49-yard touchdown.
The North got the ball right back after the kickoff when Bryan Pascual of St. Mary’s, who was named this year’s Best Defensive Player, intercepted a pass to set up a 74-yard touchdown drive, which included a 44-yard run for Stagg High’s Daniel Ruffin and a 23-yard touchdown pass to Allen from Stagg quarterback Wayne Brooks.
“It was really exciting because I thought we could keep pounding and pounding and scoring,” Allen said.
Head coach Louis Franklin of Tokay High said Allen quickly emerged as a team leader because of his quiet confidence.
“Our coaching staff appreciated that and made him a captain,” he said. “We were not surprised by that performance at all. It was what we expected.”
Allen added that the South turned out to be a tough team, and it was clear that this was a new level of competition compared to the Valley Oak League, Kimball’s regular league.
“It’s a lot different, because everyone out there is the MVP of their team, so when you come out and play everyone is good,” Allen said.
The South scored in the first quarter with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Central Valley High quarterback Kendal Johnson, the game’s Most Valuable Player, to Downey High’s Tristan Best, and on Turlock High’s Sean Downs’ 47-yard pass to Modesto Christian’s Anthony Brooks.
The game stayed tied 14-14 until the start of the fourth quarter. The North closed the third quarter when Brooks again connected with Allen on a 35-yard pass that got the North to the South’s 2-yard line. Alex Laurel of Manteca High punched the ball in from there.
With 7:10 left on the clock the South tied it up again on Johnson’s 24-yard pass to Travante Richard of Merced High.
The South got as close as the 2-yard line on its final possession before being pushed back to the 8-yard line, where St. Mary’s Pascual blocked the South’s 23-yard field goal attempt to end the game.
The North team included four players from Tracy High, including center Clayton Fegett, defensive end George Obinna, linebacker Chaz Briggs and defensive back Luke Pulliam, who was a late addition to the North roster after two players were injured in practice.
“I got a call on Wednesday afternoon and I wasn’t going to say no,” said Pulliam, who will play at Luther College in Iowa in the fall. “I was ready to get out there right away.”
Briggs, who will play for Eastern New Mexico University, said that the even with a tie the game will be one to remember.
“This is by far the funnest game I’ve played just because the competition is higher. When you make plays it’s a lot bigger deal,” he said.
Obinna, who contributed key tackles and sacks, added that he appreciated the tougher competition as he prepares to play at Sacramento State University.
“I thought it would be a really challenging game, but it was good to see that I was at the same level,” he said. “I feel like I’m at the level I need to be.”
Fegett said that the game was the highlight of a weeklong experience that will lead to lifelong friendships with former rivals.
“It felt great being here for the last high school football game on our home turf,” he said.
“I had family and friends come out. The whole team was riled up. We didn’t know each other starting on Monday but now on Saturday night we’re like a family like we’ve been together all season.”
Contact Bob Brownne at email@example.com or 830-4227.