Mobile, AL – The 62nd annual AHSAA North-South All-Star Game at Hancock Whitney Stadium Friday night was the tale of two halves – and one final big defensive play to seal the South’ 21-20 win.
The South used a precision passing attack to build a 21-7 first half lead, but the North turned to power football and a crushing running game, featuring Tuscaloosa County running back Damien Taylor, to take control in the second half to pull within a point, 21-20 with 2:20 left in the fourth quarter. However, a two-point try came up short as Carver-Montgomery linebacker Joshua Young led a host of South defenders stuffing Taylor short of the goal line.
The North defense got the ball back near midfield with 31 seconds remaining as Lanett ‘s Kadarius Zackery picked off a pass from Pleasant Grove quarterback Zyquez Perryman and raced 54 yards for the game-sealing score as the South pulled out its second win in a row.
The victory extends the South’s lead in the series to 32-27-2. The first All-Star Classic was played in 1948.
Young was in on nine tackles and had a key interception to earn MVP honors for the South, which was coached by McGill-Toolen Catholic Coach Earnest Hill. Tuscaloosa County’s Damian Taylor finished with an All-Star Classic record 180 yards on 20 carries and scored all three North touchdowns to claim North MVP honors.
A high snap on a North punt force Pelham punter Salvador Lopez to tuck and run and the South had the ball inside the North 30. The North defense held, however, but the South, let by strong pressure up front by Young and Central-Hayneville defensive lineman Quinderrious Rush, forced the North to punt again out of its end zone and this time the kick sailed to the 30 and out of bounds.
Hill inserted his own quarterback Spencer Arceneaux, the Yellow Jackets’ big-play QB completed a 12-yard TD pass to Montgomery Catholic receiver Myles Butler for the first South TD with 1:47 left in the first quarter. The North was intercepted on its first play following the kickoff by Young at the North 23-yard line, Saraland Spartans quarterback Karson Green took over under center and tossed a 23 yard touchdown pass to Javonte Graves-Billups of St. Paul’s Episcopal on first down – coming just 26 seconds after the South’s first TD. Foley’s Forrest Taylor booted his second extra point to give the South a 14-0 advantage with 1:21 left in the opening period.
Things changed quickly midway into the second quarter when North defensive back Walker Lyles of Pelham intercepted a Green pass at the North 3-yard line. North head coach Jeff Smith of Walter Wellborn inserted his son Jett Smith at quarterback who bolted to the South 15, picking up a quick first down. On the next play, Troy University signee Taylor broke off a big block by Ohatchee lineman Gregory King and dashed 85 yards for the first North score. Lopez kicked the extra point, and the South lead was cut to 14-7.
The South stormed back with Arceneaux connecting with Blount’s Melvin Williams for a 27-yard score on their squad’s next possession capping a 56-yard, nine-play drive.
The South carried a 21-7 lead into the locker room.
The South squad dominated the first half offensively with 252 total yards, 191 through the air. The North put up 129 total yards but 85 came on Taylor’s sensational TD run. The more telling stat came in the first-down category where the South held a 12-5 edge at intermission.
The North came out smoking to open the third quarter. With Smith in at quarterback, the North used 15 running plays to drive 65 yards with Taylor getting the last two yards for the TD thanks to a big block by Fyffe’s Levi Carroll and Piedmont’s Sean Smith with 4:45 left in the period.
The strategy put the South on its heels as the North kept the ball for 9:19 of the 12 minutes in the quarter – which limited the South to just 12 total yards – after rolling up 252 yards in the first two quarters.
The South got its offense in gear again to start the fourth quarter with Green at the helm, but his pass near the goal line was deflected and North linebacker Landen Berguson intercepted for the North to give is team the ball for the first time in the final period with just over seven minutes to play.
The North then marched 86 yards on 11 plays with Taylor scoring from the 3-yard line thanks to the blocking of Ohatchee lineman Gregory King and Northside tackle Joe Malone with 2:20 left to trim the margin to 21-20. The South defense rose up on Taylor’s two point conversion attempt. Zackery’s pick-six put the game on ice for the South.
The South finished with 15 first downs and 320 total yards on 54 snaps. The North had 294 total yards on 59 plays – 46 of which were rushing attempts.
Green was 11-of-17 passing for 133 yards and one TD with two interceptions. Arceneaux completed 7-of-8 throws for 88 yards and two scores as the South finished with 221 yards passing. Davis led the South rushing attack with 59 yards on nine carries. Graves-Billups had five catches for 50 yards and a score. Butler had five catches for 39 yards and a touchdown and Williams caught three passes for 55 yards and a touchdown.
For the North, Taylor averaged 9.0 yards per carry with 180 yards on 20 attempts. Smith added 34 yards on seven carries. Perryman was 5-of-13 passing for 44 yards with Jack Harris of Guntersville notching two receptions for 19 yards.
Young led the South defense with nine tackles. Rush added seven tackles with one sack and 2.5 stops resulting in 16 yards lost. Trinity Presbyterian’s Walton Cherry also had seven tackles while Zackery had five stops and a 54-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The North defense was led by Walter Wellborn’s Smith, who played both ways much of the night. He had 7 tackles along with Landon Berguson of Hewitt-Trussville and Tyrell Mayberry of Gordo. Berguson also had an interception he returned for 18 yards.
The game was played at Mobile for the first time in the series and is set to return to Hancock Whitney Stadium again in 2021 and 2022. The City of Mobile, Mobile County, the Mobile Sports Authority and the University of South Alabama partnered with the AHSAA and Alabama High School Athletic Directors and Coaches Association (AHSADCA) to pull off the 62nd annual classic.