The best high school football talent from South and North Orange County was on full display in the 59th Annual Orange County All-Star Classic, as the South erased a 24-7 fourth quarter hole to beat the North 30-27.
Reporting from COSTA MESA — El Toro quarterback Cooper Jones led the South with three touchdown passes, two late in the fourth quarter to teammate Austin Derrico.
“The main goal was to come out here and get a win, and this whole experience was a great way to end what’s been a special senior season for me,” Jones said.
Servite quarterback TJ McMahon threw two third quarter touchdown passes to lead the way for the North.
“It was an honor representing my school and such a great opportunity to showcase my talents in this all-star game,” he said.
The North squad, led by El Modena head coach Matt Mitchell, took a 17-7 into the late stages of the third quarter. The North faced a third and 12 inside the South 15-yard line, when McMahon threw his second touchdown of the quarter. Moments into the fourth, Jones led the South inside the North five-yard line, capping off an impressive drive with a three-yard touchdown pass to Derrico.
The following series, San Clemente tackle Louis Harden jumped on a North fumble to give the South an edge in momentum and the ball inside the North’s 30-yard line, trailing 24-14.
Santa Margarita quarterback Josiah Norwood capitalized on a short field moments after, scoring from two yards out to cut the North’s advantage to 24-21.
In a shocking turn of events, the South stuffed the North inside their own endzone during the kickoff return, cutting the deficit to just one with 7:16 left. One play later on the punt return, however, the South coughed up the ball to give possession right back to the North.
Deep in South territory, Canyon kicker Max Myers knocked in a clutch 40-yard field goal to put the North up four, 27-23 with 5:25 remaining. Mitchell did his best to catch the South off guard, calling a short kick, but the opposition knew what to expect and signaled for a fair catch.
A penalty against the North set Jones up with great field position, and the South wasted no time to grab the lead. Derrico broke free, scoring on a 45-yard catch and run bomb from Jones, to give the South a 30-27 advantage.
The South sealed a hard-earned victory with a crucial fourth down stop, securing possession with just over one minute left.
“I give the kids all the credit in the world,” San Clemente and South head coach Jaime Ortiz said. “We were down big, but these guys came together and played like a real team in that fourth quarter.”
Chargers studs Forrest Lamp and Denzel Perryman served as honorary team captains, dapping up the OC All-Stars throughout player introductions. The South opened play strong, taking a 7-0 lead off a Jones to Shane McLaughlin 45-yard score.
Meyers responded with a 34-yard field goal, three possessions later, to bring the North within four. Villa Park running back Zech Holifield scored from one yard out on the first possession of the second quarter, making the score 10-7.
Derrico took game MVP honors for the victorious South, thanks to his two key fourth quarter touchdowns. Fullerton safety Jonoven Smith took MVP honors for the North, snatching two interceptions.