The score really didn’t matter because everyone here embraced a measure of victory.
The 57th Optimist All-Star Game played out under unseasonably warm conditions Saturday, to the delight of a crowd of some 4,500, considering last year’s senior showcase in Loomis was in a virtual monsoon. At Prairie City Stadium on the campus of Folsom High School, there were hard hits, big plays, scoring surges and defensive stops, all for memories but especially for the Camp Ross Relles charity.
The North owned the first half and the South the second half, and, ultimately, the game, in recording a 46-21 victory that officially closes the 2013 prep season.
In this setting, rivals became teammates and unified as one. The respect ran deep on both sides, before, during and after the contest.
“I was very pleased with all of it,” North coach Mike Morris of Rio Linda High said. “The real enjoyment was working with the kids. Winning and losing doesn’t matter because of what the game means, and it’s out of your control in an all-star game.”
The North led 14-0 at the half on a Joe Swen (Center) 7-yard touchdown run and a Peyton Wilfley (Casa Roble) 11-yard pass to Keenan Hunt (Rio Linda). The South regrouped, and then some, scoring the game’s next 34 points, sparked by Pleasant Grove quarterback Dre Terrell. He scored on a 2-yard run to pull the South to within 14-7 early in the third quarter, and he hit Folsom receiver Troy Knox for a 26-yard touchdown for a 24-14 lead.
Terrell was named the Character Combine MVP for the South, having passed for 122 yards and offering typical poised leadership.
“That was fun, and props to the North team, too, because they were great,” Terrell said. “It’s a great way to go out as a senior, go to out with all these players I grew up with.”
Terrell said he was especially impressed with Tyrell Anderson of the North, the versatile playmaker from Center. Anderson earned North Character Combine MVP honors with 112 kickoff return yards, four receptions for 41 yards, four tackles and an interception. Anderson led the state with 12 interceptions from his cornerback spot.
“Great athlete,” Terrell said of Anderson. “His speed is impressive. We couldn’t stop him.”
Then again, the North couldn’t stop the South in the second half.
Jesuit quarterback Jason Elenberger of the South tied the score 14-14 with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Justin Priest of Oak Ridge. Folsom kicker Ben Trumm then drilled an Optimist record 50-yard field goal with plenty to spare for a 17-14 South lead, bettering the 42-yard mark by Billy McBroom of San Juan in 1989 for the North.
Burbank defensive tackle Ngalu Tapa blasted in from a yard out on a fullback carry for the South for a 31-14 lead, and the Washington State-bound bruiser savored his end zone effort so much he ran right past the goal post support. Trumm’s 29-yard field goal pushed the South ahead 34-14 before Anderson pulled in a 9-yard scoring pass from Wilfley to end the onslaught.
Elk Grove quarterback Tommy Arnold, who started for the South at linebacker, had a 13-yard touchdown pass to Folsom’s Michael McCuaig for a 40-21 lead. Arnold later raced to the goal line line on a 30-yard run before losing the ball, though it was recovered by South teammate Nolan Merker in the end zone for the final points. Merker, Sheldon’s record-setting quarterback, had a good game, too, rushing 32 yards on five carries.
“So many of us have played with each other or against each other that it was easy to make friends this week,” said Arnold, who had eight tackles and a sack on defense. “I think everyone had a great time.”
Earl Chism of Pleasant Grove led the South with eight tackles and had two sacks. South teammate Joey Banks of Franklin had three sacks, Colton Giorgi of Oak Ridge had eight tackles and a sack, and Dior Vela of Elk Grove had five tackles. Also for the South, Calvin Green of Burbank made a circus catch of a 38-yard pass from Arnold to set up a score in the fourth.
And more South: Thomas Mahlman of Oak Ridge had a sack and an interception, and Kalen McDonald of Sacramento and Malcolm Harvey of Jesuit each recovered fumbles.
For the North, Wilfley passed for 122 yards and two scores and ran for 89 yards. Moses Moala of Grant had six tackles. Fresh off a CIF State Division II bowl showing, Del Oro’s Tyler Meteer had six tackles and Tanner Woods had two tackles for a loss. Skyler Gonzalez of Rocklin had four tackles and a sack and Josh Gallofin of Whitney had three tackles and an interception.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter: @SacBee_JoeD.