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*** 29th All-Star Game ***

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Ghilarducci stars in defeat

Published Thursday, July 24, 2003, in the San Jose Mercury News
By David Kiefer

A showcase for the top senior football players in Santa Clara County turned out to be a showcase for Gunn High receiver Phil Ghilarducci.

Despite the efforts of the Oregon-bound standout, Ghilarducci's North side lost 27-25 before 6,000 at San Jose City College on Wednesday night at the Silicon Valley Youth Classic. The 29th annual Santa Clara County all-star game honors Charlie Wedemeyer, a Los Gatos coach who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerating condition he was diagnosed with in 1977.

Ghilarducci had 11 catches for 205 yards and one touchdown and seemingly carried the North to within grasp of a come-from-behind victory. But the North's effort to complete a rally from a 27-19 deficit ended when Doug Dionne, Willow Glen's valedictorian, intercepted a pass near his own goal line with five seconds left to ensure the final result.

"It was a relief to get the ball out there and know Phil would go up and grab it," said North quarterback Sean Manson out of Mountain View.

Ghilarducci, who repeatedly beat double coverage, caught five passes for 90 yards in the North's two fourth-quarter drives. The first ended when Ghilarducci split the seam and made a fingertip catch on a 28-yard touchdown play with 7:43 to go.

"They were hitting me when I wasn't looking, taking some cheap shots," Ghilarducci said. "I had my head on a swivel the whole time, and they still couldn't stop me."

The North brought the ball down to the 18 when it designed a pass play to tight end J.P. Bellotti (St. Francis) on a 10-yard stick route with Ghilarducci clearing out the middle and both backs running swing routes to the outside.

The South, however, attacked with a blitz from the outside, with other linebackers dropping back into the coverage. It was enough to throw off the timing and disrupt the play.

Two defensive plays by the South turned the game around.

In the third quarter, Valley Christians's Ryan Abbott pressured a backpedaling Rollin, batted it high, grabbed it out of the air and ran 55 yards for a score and a 14-13 lead.

"That was a weakside blitz," said the San Jose State-bound Abbott, the Mercury News player of the year. "It worked during practice all week and there was no reason it shouldn't work here."

Shortly after Guy Blightman of Piedmont Hills put the South ahead for good on a 13-yard pass from Silver Creek's Dustin Long, teammate Alesana Ulu (Independence) stole the ball from Ghilarducci and ran 20 yards for another score, this one on the final play of the third quarter for a 27-19 lead.

The North had a chance to tie the score after Ghilarducci's touchdown, but Manson's two-point conversion pass to Bellotti was dropped just inside the flag.

North quarterback Tyler Mariucci's didn't play because of a hamstring injury. According to a statement, he will be treated soon by team doctors with the Detroit Lions, where his father is head coach.

South    6  6   6  6 - 25
North    6  0  13  7 - 27
 S - Webster 9 run (kick failed).
 N - Fultcher 18 pass from Rollin (Tam kick).
 N - DeLash 2 run (kick blocked).
 S - Abbott 55 interception return (Reyes pass from Long).
 N - Orozco 1 run (run failed).
 S - Blightman 13 pass from Long (pass failed).
 S - Ulu 20 fumble return (Bronzovic kick).
 N - Ghilarducci 28 pass from Manson (pass failed).
 North rushing - DeLash 10-32, Freeman 2-23, Manson 1-14, Faules 2-13, Blankenship 1-8, Zahriya 1-7, Caringello 2-6, Tam 1-5, Orozco 4-2, Rollin 4(-11).
 South rushing - Reyes 8-48, Henry 7-27, Webster 8-19, Kim 3-12, Blanco 1-4, Farnham 3-(-8), Long 3-(-11).
 North passing - Manson 11-15-1-144, Rollin 6-12-1, Blankenship 1-3-1-15.
 South passing - Reyes 1-1-0-10, Long 1-4-0-13, Farnham 2-3-0-10.
 North receiving - Ghilarducci 11-205, Belloti 3-23, Orozco 2-10, Fultcher 1-18, DeLash 1-18.
 South receiving - Blightman 2-30, Hitzel 1-6, Webster 1-4.