Grant High School’s B.J. Brown had just caught a nifty 15-yard touchdown pass from Whitney’s Hunter Rodrigues late in Saturday’s 59th Optimist All-Star football game at Jesuit, but Brown made the catch of the day a few plays later with a one-handed interception in the end zone.
Shortly after Brown reached over his right shoulder and plucked the ball out of the setting sun, the contest was called after a bench-clearing brawl with 1:33 remaining and the North winning 29-7. A scuffle broke out on a punt, and officials decided to call the game. Great plays from Brown led a dominating defensive effort that featured six sacks and three interceptions and limited the South to 141 yards of offense.
“Our coaches did a great job with our blitz packages, and we got our (interceptions),” said Grant’s Elijah Orr, who had several big hits and one of the North’s sacks. “We had pressure on their quarterbacks all game, and it was fun playing with all these great players.”
The annual Optimist game always produces a few surprise players from smaller schools. Saturday, that player was William Meder, a defensive tackle from Wheatland High.
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Meder had two sacks and a bevy of hurries on the South’s beleaguered and besieged quarterbacking corps of Caden Voges (Sacramento) and Braeden Bourke (Capital Christian). Voges had a 10-yard pass for a score to Bradshaw Christian’s Phillip White Jr. in the second quarter for the South’s only score. But Voges was chased out of the pocket by Meder and Orr and was running to his right when he threw the ball into traffic, where the 6-foot-4 White grabbed it.
“I was put on the (defensive) line mainly to be a run stopper, but they kept throwing the ball, so I got to go get the QB,” Meder said.
Meder is headed to American River College, where he’ll join 10 of his Optimist teammates.
Rodrigues got most of the work behind center Saturday and finished 10 of 19 for 113 yards and two touchdowns, one to Whitney teammate Devin Brocchini for 13 yards and the toss to Brown.
Antelope’s Montel Aaron was efficient as one of three North quarterbacks. He finished 4 of 6 for 80 yards and a scoring toss of 17 yards to River Valley’s Dante Love. Love led all receivers with 79 yards on just three catches. He also caught a 19-yard score from Del Campo’s Ben Purcell.
Like South coach Jason Rossow (Pleasant Grove), North coach Mike Dimino said he found it very difficult to gather enough players to play. Only 19 showed up to practice on Monday.
“I got as many ‘nos’ from players than I got ‘yeses,’ ” Dimino said. “I’ve done this four or five times now, and it gets harder and harder. I think they need to go back to games in December. I didn’t have one kid from Del Oro, a state champion, because they had a senior class trip, and the same with kids from Granite Bay.”
The South had just 23 players Saturday.
Mark Billingsley is a Carmichael-based freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com or @editorwriter001.