TRACY – Not this time.
After the South came away with a three-point win in the 2013 Lions All-Star Football Game thanks to an uncontested field goal on the game’s last play, the rules were changed to allow defending field goals. In the 41st edition of the contest played Saturday at Wayne Schneider Stadium, the South tried to repeat history with a field-goal attempt on the game’s last play, but defensive MVP Bryan Pascual of St. Mary’s blocked the kick to preserve a 21-21 tie, with the North leading the series 24-15-2.
Manteca running back Alex Laurel enjoyed a benefit none of the other players did – he had the majority of his offensive line in front of him. Schools are limited to three participating players, but with Sierra’s Luke Widmer and other players going down to injury, roster spots had to be filled so a late addition to the offensive front that already included Billy Sharmoug and Isaac McClain was fellow Buffalo Joe Eavenson.
It looked more like November than June when the beefy Manteca trio led the North on a 92-yard drive later in the third quarter capped by a 2-yard Laurel scoring plunge to give the North a 21-14 lead.
“This was my last high-school type of event,” Laurel said. “It was great playing one more time with the Manteca guys – we had five on the team.”
Laurel will be attending Butte College in the fall and Sharmough will be going to North Dakota to play for University of Mary.
“It was a great feeling to come back and play with some of my best friends,” Sharmoug said. “When the season ended the way it did I thought it was all over but we got blessed with the opportunity to play in this game and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
“I wouldn’t rather play with any other group of guys and it was awesome that Manteca had five guys.”
Joining Sharmoug at University of Mary will be McClain.
“It was great to play one last game as a high-school player,” McClain said. “And we got to play with a bunch of guys we have never played with before. We just barely met them on Monday and now it seems like they are brothers.”
Sharmoug and McClain are not the only Buffaloes going to North Dakota – Eavenson will be facing the two when he suits up for Minot State.
“This was a great experience for me,” Eavenson said. “I have never got to play with such a diverse and great group of people. I really did enjoy the opportunity to play with a bunch of guys I didn’t know at the beginning but now it is like we are best friends.”
Another late addition to the North roster gave the Buffaloes defensive representation. Delta College-bound linebacker Jake LeDon made the best of his late arrival, getting in on nine tackles.
“They were fast and they were good,” LeDon said, “We were firing on all cylinders on offense and defense and I was just trying to hit people as hard as I could.”
With seven minutes left in the game the South scored to come within 21-20 and chose to go for the uncontested point-after kick rather than a two-point conversion for the lead.
“This was a great night and capped off an amazing week,” North coach Louis Franklin from Tokay – and a former coach at Weston Ranch – said. “I got to meet a lot of good kids – I consider them sons now.
“There were some funny goofy kids and I would have liked to pull off a win for them, but I guess with the World Cup this year it was O.K. to play for the tie.”