It turned out to be a comeback win for the North, with a touchdown and two-point conversion in the closing minutes giving the North the 15-14 win in the 37th Annual Lions All Star Football game.
The win gives the North, representing Tracy and West high schools, a 22-14-1 record for the traditional game.
After some first quarter touchdowns the game settled into a defensive battle that saw the North team looking for an advantage over the South.
Like he did in the Bulldogs regular season, Tracy High’s Depray Celestine turned out to be a big playmaker both on the ground and as a receiver, gaining him the Most Valuable Offensive Player award.
“Depray is a heck of an athlete,” North coach Don Norton of Stagg High said. “He’s fast and quick. Those were not easy catches to make. He stepped up and made big plays.”
The Tracy High players add the win to their 11-1 record for the season, including a 10-0 regular season, the San Joaquin Athletic Association title and two rounds of playoffs.
“The competition was good. They were big and strong, but we were faster, and we had more heart,” Celestine said. “We could not lose this game.”
Celestine added that he enjoyed a chance to work with the game’s Most Valuable Player, quarterback Marcus McDade of St. Mary’s, which also went 10-0 in the regular season and 11-1 overall.
“He’d see me, he threw me the ball and I’d get it no matter what,” Celestine said.
Tracy High linebacker Billy Simon said that the South’s 14-7 lead after the first quarter was a little nerve-wracking, but he and other defensive players wouldn’t let themselves be intimidated.
“Our defense stepped up and shut them down the whole game,” he said. “It was great to put the North on top, like we should be.”
Tracy’s Kevin Speer played offensive tackle, which Norton said turned out to be a key to the passing game he wanted to use.
“He had to learn a different technique on the pass blocking,” Norton said. “My hat’s off to Kevin.”
West High’s Dexter Alcala played in the first quarter, but left the game early after a rough landing on a pass play. Norton said that the team trainer believes Alcala suffered a separated shoulder and sent him to the hospital for further examination.
The South scored first, with 4:42 left in the first quarter, when Nathan Sanchez of Atwater made it into the end zone, but the North forced a fumble. The South’s David Sjelin of Modesto Christian picked the ball up for the score.
The North tied it up with 38 seconds left in the quarter when McDade connected with Celestine on a 12-yard touchdown pass.
The South came right back. With three seconds left in the quarter Max Ornelas of Los Banos ran in a 60-yard pass play and Markus Sanders of Pitman scored the point after to put the South up 14-7. The second and third quarters went scoreless, in spite of some more big plays from Celestine, including a 53-yard pass reception at the end of the second quarter. But with only 10 second left in the half it wasn’t enough to get the North into the end zone.
The North broke the stalemate at the end of the fourth when Stagg’s Ty Minkin ran the ball in from the 5-yard line to cut the South’s lead to 14-13 with 2:11 left. Instead of settling for a tie, McDade found Sierra High’s Anthony Hall on the right side and connected for the 2-point conversion pass to make it 15-14.
The South’s drive up the field ended with 48 seconds on the clock when the North's Forrest Coleman of Lincoln High intercepted a pass, and the North offense ran out the clock for the win.
Other awards for the night included Most Valuable Defensive Player Cody Wichmann of Mariposa High, playing for the South team, and Most Inspirational Player Nathan Sanchez of Atwater High, also playing for the South.
Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.