ALL-STAR WEEK: North edges South in football
By Tim Gayle
David Poole was just thankful for the opportunity.
The Montgomery Catholic senior was one of 41 replacement players called on to play in the Alabama All-Star Sports Week football game at Cramton Bowl after the original all-stars had scheduling conflicts. Poole, to his credit, was the first player to put his name in the game book after returning the opening kickoff and had three receptions for 25 yards.
“It was definitely a blessing, just to be asked to be in it,” Poole said. “It made me really happy (to be selected), just knowing how hard I worked. Being with all these great players is a lot of fun.”
Both South quarterbacks were also late replacements but made the most of their experience as Chase Warren of Leroy (10 of 14 for 124 yards and two touchdowns) and Caleb Winton of T.R. Miller (5 of 13 for 51 yards) combined to set a team record for passing yards (175) and completions (15). In the end, however, it wasn’t enough as the North held off the South 14-13 in front of an estimated crowd of 5,000.
The football game capped a miserable week for the South all-stars, who lost their battle with the North in baseball, cross country, boys soccer, girls soccer, boys basketball, girls basketball, volleyball and football, setting a new standard for futility as their only victory in softball earned them a split of the Tuesday doubleheader.
“We wanted to win,” Poole said. “It was just a blessing to be out here, so I’m happy about that. I think most of the guys would agree with me.”
The football game was indicative of how frustrating the week has been for the South all-stars. Entering the fourth period, the North had managed just three first downs, yet led 14-7 because of two critical turnovers by the South.
And when the South finally managed to score with a little more than eight minutes remaining, the chance for victory was broken up, much the same way Chase Warren’s two-point conversion pass failed.
You couldn’t blame it on the South receivers, however. Tyler Wesley of Jeff Davis was the South most valuable player after hauling in both touchdowns and recording 66 yards on four receptions, both game highs. Poole, Josh Knight and Maurice Young of Wetumpka all finished with three catches.
“I felt like I did what I needed to do in that position,” Poole said.
Five plays into the game, Young was stripped of the ball by Haleyville linebacker Will Evans after a reception. Hartselle linebacker Connor Landers grabbed the ball out of the air and returned it 40 yards to the goal line, where he was stripped of the ball by Young. Officials ruled he had possession when he crossed the goal line, however, giving the North a quick 7-0 lead.
The South took the next possession 67 yards in seven plays for the game-tying score but that was the end of the offensive fireworks for the night. The South could not consistently move the ball again until early in the fourth quarter and the North had trouble generating any offense all night.
The North would score the game-winning points on the third play of the second quarter when Evans, the North’s most valuable player, blocked Max Weeks’ punt and returned it five yards to the South 2 to set up a short scoring drive, while the South continued to struggle on offense despite its wealth of talent.
“The challenge is you take experienced coaches that are successful and we come together and you blend what you do,” said Wetumpka coach Tim Perry, who called the offensive signals for the South. “You focus on what kind of system can we install that can be simple and effective. We did all that on Sunday night.
“What we tried to do is just spread the ball around because we knew we had some talented skill players on offense and we wanted to get the ball out there to them as often as we could. It’s kind of a challenge because you look out there and you’ve got some very good athletes.”
Those athletes would get two last possessions in the fourth quarter but the first ended after three plays lost a yard and the second ran out of time as the South took over on its 2-yard line with 1:08 remaining and made it to the North 48 before time ran out.