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Fans entertained as South holds off North
By Darren Sabedra
CAMPBELL — The 38th Charlie Wedemeyer All-Star Football Game had a little bit of everything Wednesday night at Westmont High.
Big throws, big runs, big interceptions — and a dramatic conclusion as the South held on for a 26-21 victory when Piedmont Hills' Andrew Nwachukwu made a leaping interception in the corner of the end zone with three seconds left.
"I'd never played corner in my life," Nwachukwu said as his team celebrated. "All game I kept making mistakes. But I kept on fighting."
Both sides fought to the end as the South took charge early behind Willow Glen quarterback Mitch Ravizza, withstood a North rally in the second quarter and then another in the fourth.
"You couldn't have written it up like this," said Mountain View quarterback Mike Butler, who led the North nearly the length of the field in the closing minutes only to see his final throw intercepted.
"We missed it by just inches."
Two third-quarter field goals by Willow Glen's James Johnson and a 61-yard run by Piedmont Hills' Johnny Beard gave the South a seemingly commanding 26-14 lead in the game named after the former Los Gatos coach who died in 2010 after a long battle with ALS.
But the North didn't fade away. It cut the lead to 26-21 midway through the fourth quarter on a 5-yard run by Saratoga's Troy Doles and then held off a South threat before staging its final drive.
"We knew this was going to be a grind," Ravizza said. "The North was a lot bigger and physical. We were just hoping to use our speed."
The game, which originally was scheduled to be played at San Jose State's Spartan Stadium, drew a standing-room-only crowd to Westmont High. It was moved to the smaller venue because a new NCAA rule prevents Football Bowl Sub-division schools from hosting high school all-star games.
After trailing 14-13 at halftime, the South put together an impressive drive on its first possession of the second half. When the series stalled at the North's 12-yard-line, Johnson booted a 29-yard field goal to give the South a 16-14 lead.
Later in the quarter, a muffed punt gave the South possession at the North 16. That series ended with another Johnson field goal.
The South dominated the first quarter as Ravizza was nearly perfect with his arm and legs. The Willow Glen star, a first-team All-Mercury News player, scrambled for 18 yards to set up the South's first touchdown.
He later scored on a 1-yard run after his 7-yard pass to Marcus Harrell of Christopher put the team on the doorstep of the goal line.
The Ravizza show continued on the South's next possession. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound quarterback was 6 for 7 on that series, and his 38-yard pass to Jourdan Soares of Gilroy gave the South a first down at the 1.
After a couple running plays moved the ball back to the 8, Ravizza calmly lofted a pass into the right corner of the end zone, and Soares made the catch for a touchdown that gave the South a 13-0 lead.
But the momentum swung the North'S way in the second quarter as Butler heated up.
Just as Ravizza had in the opening quarter, Butler took charge in the second quarter, giving a spark to a North team that badly needed one.
Butler led a methodical drive that ended when Rodney McKenzie of Milpitas outleapt a defender in the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown reception. The score cut the North's deficit to 13-7.
The North struck again quickly. Eight seconds after McKenzie's touchdown, Tyler Bond of Homestead stepped in front of an errant pass and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown to give the North the lead at halftime.
SOUTH 26, NORTH 21