Strong defensive play struck a chord early and often in the North’s 21-14 victory in the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives North South All-Star Football Game on Saturday.
The game, held at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium, saw two strong squads made up of some of South Carolina’s best players’ battle for bragging rights in their last games as high school football players. Early on, nerves and unfamiliarity with other players led to a North turnover on the first possession and a three-and-out by the South. On the third down play for the South, North defensive lineman and Tennessee commit Tre Lawson broke through the offensive line to bring down Omar Cummings behind the line of scrimmage. The play would set the tone for the North squad.
“We needed a spark to get our offense going,” Lawson said.” I feel like I’m a leader on the defense after the week of practice, so I wanted to make a play early on to let everybody know that we are here to win. We didn’t come here just to have fun and play around; we wanted to win the game.”
Lawson’s hit did that and more, as the South was forced to punt and the North turned its next offensive drive into seven points as quarterback Brett Burnett hit Malik Williams for a 26 yard touchdown. The North defense would continue to feed its offense throughout the game, forcing five turnovers and applying pressure to any quarterback the South put in the game.
“Our defense played outstanding today,” said North coach Jimmy Neal of Camden. “We saw them all week in practice do the things they did on the field during this game. They treated us (the coaching staff) like we were Nick Saban and really hung on everything we were telling them. They came out with a focus and intensity about them that was great to see.”
The North added another score in the first quarter, a 56-yard bomb from Devin Beckley to Richland Northeast’s Cedric Smith, before the South responded. Conway’s Peyton Derrick, an Appalachian State commit, found his backup quarterback in Tyrece Nick for an 11-yard touchdown. The score came after the South lined up for a field goal, then reconsidered after the North took a timeout.
“We committed five turnovers, I don’t care what level of football you’re playing – you won’t win if you turn it over five times,” said South coach Reggie Kennedy (Irmo). “Our defense kept us in it all day. We wanted to give the fan their money’s worth there at the end, but they (the North) made one more play than us down the stretch.”
In the second half, an interception from Derrick on the first drive led to a short field and quick score by the North, as Ant Foster found the end zone from 7 yards out. Derrick’s pass was intercepted by North defensive MVP Akyah Miranda, who had three interceptions in the contest.
“I wouldn’t have been able to intercept those passes without my defensive line getting pressure and linebackers filling their voids – it’s a team effort,” the Belton-Honea Path player said. “It felt great to make a play when the ball was thrown my way. I only had one pick this season, so when I saw (the South quarterback) try me, I got really excited.”
The South mounted its final charge in the fourth quarter, with Derrick scrambling for his life against the aggressive North defensive line. On one such scramble, Derrick found Jalen Barr for a 51-yard touchdown to trim the deficit to seven. The South got the ball with 3:33 left in the game and drove near midfield before Jaiden Clayton snagged a Derrick pass and sealed the victory for his team.
“It was stressful down the stretch, but our guys played well,” Neal said. “We’ve got some good defensive players and they’re great kids. It was fun and you enjoy winning. This probably won’t define my coaching career, but it’s always more fun to win than lose.”
The offensive MVP for the North was Smith, who had 112 receiving yards on the day. The South MVPs were Kaytron Allen (Woodland) on defense and Barr (Lake City) on offense.
HOW THEY SCORED
N – Brett Burnett 26 pass to Malik Williams (Zhenya Deller kick) 11:25
N – Devin Beckley 56 pass to Cedric Smith (Deller kick) 7:28
S – Peyton Derrick 11 pass to Tyrece Nick (Gunnar Kennedy kick) 4:05
N – Ant Foster 7 run (Deller kick) 12:25
S – Derrick 51 pass to Jalen Barr (Kennedy kick) 6:02
RUSHING: S: Derrick 12-50; Omar Cummings 9-46; Nick 12-17; Catriez Cook 5-22. N: DD Hull 8-41; Cedrick Cunningham 9-41; Foster 9-44 TD.
PASSING: S: Derrick 14-32-161-2-5; Nick 2-6-11-0-0. N: Burnett 11-19-161-1-1; Devin Beckley 7-14-123-1-0.
RECEIVING: S: Barr 7-124 TD; Nick 2-17 TD; Jeffrey Tharp 3-9. N: Smith 4-112 TD; Williams 2-55 TD; Jyston Kendrick 4-30; JoJo Watson 4-56.
How some of Midlands players fared in Saturday’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Bowl:
▪ Jeffrey Tharp (Irmo) – 9 yards on 3 carries; 4 receptions for 18 yards
▪ Lane Botkin (A.C. Flora) – Team-high eight tackles
▪ Sekwan Jenkins (Blythewood) – Three tackles
▪ Cory Riley (A.C. Flora) – Two tackles
▪ Catriez Cook (Gilbert) – 32 yards on 5 carries
▪ Adam Rowson (Lugoff-Elgin) – Four tackles
▪ Joe Beckett (White Knoll) – Six tackles
▪ Gunnar Kennedy (Lexington) – Averaged 33.7 yards on seven punts. Three kickoffs, one for touchback
▪ Cedric Smith (RNE) – Four catches for 109 yards, North Offensive MVP
▪ Cedrick Cunningham (North Central) – 35 yards on 8 carries
▪ Latheron Rodgers-Anderson (Ridge View) – Had five tackles
▪ Devin Beckley (Camden) – 9 of 16 passing for 162 yards, TD
▪ Brett Burnett (Airport) – 14 of 22 passing for 151 yards, TD
▪ Dahon Mixon (C.A. Johnson) – One tackle
▪ Jo Jo Watson (Camden) – 6 receptions for 79 yards
▪ David Gibson (Fairfield Central) – Had one tackle and one reception