Mobile, AL – The South defense rose to the occasion Friday night picking off three passes and returning two for touchdowns to spark a 42-7 win over the North in the 64th AHSAA North-South All-Star Football Classic played at Hancock Whitney Stadium on the University of South Alabama campus.
South MVP Chris Pearson of Orange Beach put the finishing touches on the victory with two quick touchdowns in a 28-point third quarter with a 58-yard interception return for a touchdown and a 35-yard punt return for the South’s final scores on the final two North possessions of the period.
The South’s 42 point performance set a record for most points scored by a winning team in the series which was first played in Tuscaloosa in 1948. It is also the only time a team has scored more than 40 points in the 64-game history of the North-South Classic. The previous scoring record (37) was set by the South in a 37-33 win in the 2011 contest.
The South squad lit up the scoreboard first with a 10-play, 64-yard drive midway through the second period. South quarterback Caden Creel of Fairhope, facing a third-and-24 situation near midfield, kept the drive alive with a 32-yard sprint to the North 16-yard line. After a 3-yard sack, he connected with Enterprise receiver Tre Kimmerlin for a 19-yard TD pass. Wetumpka placekicker Logan Weighall added the point after to put team South up 7-0 with 5:57 remaining before the break.
Later in the quarter, North defensive back Steven Jones of Gadsden City intercepted South quarterback Clyde Pittman’s pass at the North 14-yard line and ran it back 10 yards to the 24.
North running back Toryion Spears of Northridge sped 16 yards to near midfield, and Center Point running back Troy Bruce moved the North into South territory with an 8-yard run. The march ended abruptly three plays later when North quarterback Jack Hayes of Piedmont went deep downfield and was picked off by South DB Nic Floyd of Eufaula at the 28-yard line, who sped down the left sideline 72 yards for a South touchdown with 2:44 left in the half. Weighall’s PAT gave the South a 14-0 advantage that carried into the half.
The South, despite losing a fumble at midfield on its first possession to start the second half, recharged its offense with a 78-yard, eight-play drive midway through the third quarter. UMS-Wright running back Cole Blaylock took a screen pass up the middle for 30 yards to the North 34, four plays later Mykel Johnson of Enterprise sped around right end for a dazzling 22-yard TD run and Weighall’s extra point increased the South’s lead to 21-0 with 6:17 left in the third.
South Coach Erik Speakman pulled a trick out of his hat on the following kickoff with an onside kick recovered by Trinity Presbyterian’s Seawell McKee, at the North 35-yard line. Two plays later, Creel connected with Theodore’s Braden Jenkins on a swing pass and the halfback broke two tackles to speed 19 yards for the South’s fourth touchdown.
The South defense and special teams – more precisely Orange Beach’s Pearson – tacked on two quick touchdowns in the final 3 ½ minutes of the third quarter. He intercepted a pass and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown, then returned a North punt 35 yards for another score to expand the lead to 42-0 with 10 seconds left in the period.
The North averted the shutout with a halfback pass from Buckhorn’s Terrence Robinson to Sparkman’s Malachi Jones for a 4-yard TD connection with 38 seconds left in the game.
The South made three interceptions and recovered one fumble to force four turnovers on the night. Johnson was the South’s leading rusher with 39 yards on four carries, Jenkins had 32 yards on seven attempts. Creel finished the night 6-of-11 passing for 81 yards and a score, Pittman was 4-of-9 for 41 yards and a touchdown. Blaylock lead the south receiving corps with two catches for 48 yards. Johnson recorded two receptions for 22 yards.
The North was led by Center Point running back Troy Bruce, Jr., who earned North MVP honors with 87 yards rushing on 13 carries, caught one pass for eight yards and returned a kickoff for 27 yards to finish with 122 all-purpose yards. Northridge’s Toryion Spears added 36 yards rushing on 12 carries.
North quarterback Hayes was 6-of-13 passing for 30 yards and three interceptions. Giovanni Lopez of James Clemens was 2-of-8 for 12 yards and was also sacked four times for negative 24 yards. Ashville’s Greyson Simpson had eight punts for a 38.2-yard average. South punter Weighall averaged 36 yards on four punts.
Pearson finished with five punt returns for 72 yards for the South. He also had a game-high nine tackles. Opelika’s Tae Gay had six stops including two for loss, Dorian Jackson of Wetumpka also had six tackles, and Brenton Williams, also of Opelika, had two sacks resulting in 15 yards in losses.
The North defensive effort was led by Hewitt-Trussville’s Braylon Chatman, who had five stops, and Christian Douglas of Leeds, who added four tackles, one for a loss, and a fumble recovery.
Photo | AHSADCA Director Brandon Dean congratulates 2022 North-South MVPs – Chris Pearson (21) of Orange Beach and Troy Bruce (24) of Center Point. (AHSAA | David Holtsford)