Athletic Football All-Stars Shine As Juniors

Troy, Ala.--The second Alabama High School Athletic Association North-South Junior All-Star Football Game wasn't always a thing of beauty, but for fans of hard-hitting football and athleticism the game was an artistic success.

Playing at Movie Gallery Stadium on the Troy University campus, the South's cat-quick defenders led their team to a 16-7 victory over the North All-Stars.

Terry Curtis of UMS-Wright in Mobile, head coach of the South All-Stars, said he was pleased with his team's intensity. "They played hard and they are good athletes, real good athletes--basketball players, whatever. Once it gets down to it, even in an all-star game, they wanted to win so they came out ready to play.

"They wanted to show the North they were just as good," Curtis added. "They got after it all day long. There were some licks passed out there. I was proud of the effort. We made some mistakes, but we made some plays when we needed to."

Linebacker Eltoro Freeman of Benjamin Russell in Alexander City, a raging bull on defense for the South defense, said the all-star experience was a good one. "It is an honor to come here," he said. "It is an honor to come here because they picked some of the best players in the state of Alabama," added Freeman, who noted that he is beginning to get some recruiting letters from colleges as a potential February 2007 signee.

Eltorro Freeman showed excellent quickness from his linebacker spot.

"When I got here I knew I had to come out and make big plays because I knew I was going against the top players in the state," said Freeman, who played on a team that reached the Class 5A semi-finals this past season.

Ryan Pugh of Spain Park High, who is going to be one of the top prospects in the state of Alabama for the 2007 signee class, stood out at center for the North All-Stars. The 6-3, 275-pounder, who is also a standout wrestler, visited an Auburn University football practice last week. He tells Inside the Auburn Tigers that he already has a very early offer from Auburn in addition to ones from LSU, Clemson, Vanderbilt and Tennessee.

"Playing center was a lot of fun," said Pugh, who played tackle as a junior and center as a sophomore blocking for quarterback Neil Caudle, a verbal commitment to Auburn. "It is a position I enjoy playing and I thought I did pretty good," Pugh added. He also started at guard and center as a freshman.

Pugh said he also enjoyed his trip to Auburn last Saturday to check out one of the Tigers' practices as Coach Tommy Tuberville's team prepares to play in the Capital One Bowl vs. Wisconsin on Jan. 2nd. "It is a real good place and they treat you like family there," Pugh said. "It is a real first class place."

The three-year starter in high school spent the whole game snapping the football to the player voted his team's MVP, quarterback Zach Smith of Susan Moore High School. Scrambling trying to find an open receiver and protect his health many times with good coverage in the South secondary by players like 6-2, 187 safety Michael McNeil of Davidson, 6-1, 203 cornerback Corey Hart of Loachapoka and a quick and active linebacker corps featuring 6-0, 200 Freeman from Benjamin Russell, 6-2, 225 Jeffery Daniels of Brantley and 6-0, 210 Terrance Thomas of Eufaula, Smith ended up running almost as much as he passed the ball.

The quick and elusive QB, who is listed at 6-1, 180 pounds, completed 10-19 passes for 85 yards with one interception and ran 17 times for 85 yards. He netted 60 after the five quarterback sacks for 25 yards in losses were figured into the total.

Smith, who has thrown for right at 6,000 career yards in high school going into his senior season, is getting early attention from a variety of colleges. He says Auburn isn't one of those schools yet, but notes he likes the Tigers and hopes that will change later during his junior year at Susan Moore High, which is located in Blountsville.

Smith will get a chance to show his potential again next month in San Antonio, Tex., at the U.S. Army and Combine at the Alamodome. "I am looking forward to going out there," he says.

Susan Moore's Zach Smith runs for good yardage.

Freeman, with six solo stops, was listed as the leading tackler in the game. He also forced a fumble.

The South team's MVP was Foley quarterback Roosevelt Byrd of Foley High, who completed 7-15 passes for 159 yards and one touchdown. Listed at 6-1, 195 the QB ran the ball 12 times for 31 more yards. As a junior, he passed for more than 3,000 yards.

The game's leading receiver was 6-0, 180 Stanley Jones of Houston Academy, who caught one ball for 58 yards and a South touchdown on a high pass that was underthrown, but overrun by the North defense. Tyler Robbins, a 6-1, 171 receiver for 5A state champion Homewood, caught two balls for 53 yards for the South squad. The North's leading receiver, 6-2, 175 Sam Edwards of Clay-Chalkville, caught three passes for 34 yards.

None of the running backs in the all-star game put up big numbers. Terrance Wilkes of Wadley, 5-8, 170, led the North squad with 42 yards on 10 carries. He is a teammate of wide receiver Terrell Zachery, a verbal commitment to Auburn for the 2006 signee class. James Hall, 5-9, 193 from Murphy High in Mobile, led the South squad in rushing with seven carries for 37 yards.

Terrance Wilkes (24) of Wadley runs for the North squad as defensive back Ricardo Bates of Prattville High closes in to make a tackle.

After a scoreless first quarter, the game was tied at 7-7 at halftime. The North took the lead on a 59-yard drive that covered six plays. Dennis King, a 5-9, 167 tailback from 6A state champion Hoover, gave his team the lead as he powered in at right guard from two yards out with 8:52 left in the second quarter. QB Smith set up the touchdown with a 41-yard run the previous play.

It was the South defense that tied the game the next time the North had the football. Freeman stripped the football from King and fellow linebacker Thomas from Eufaula raced 70 yards with the loose football to tie the game at 7-7.

The South scored on its opening possession of the second half to take the lead. On the fourth play of the drive, Stanley Jones was behind the North secondary. Byrd threw a high pass that was underthrown, but Jones came back for the ball, eluded one tackler and stepped into the end zone for the score. A missed PAT by Harris Brown of Montgomery Academy was wide to leave the score 13-7.

The North had a chance to tie the game, but John Nyquist of Cullman was wide on field goal attempts of 31 yards in the third quarter and 32 early in the fourth period. The South's Brown kicked a 20-yard field goal with 4:30 remaining to wrap up the victory.

The December junior all-star game, which was started last year, took the place of the North-South All-Star Game that was contested annually in Montgomery with players who had just graduated from high school, but had not entered college.

The North squad, coached by Hoover's Rush Propst, was hurt by one lost fumble and one interception. The North finished with 197 yards of total offense to 256 for the South, which lost two fumbles and one interception.

The South defense got two sacks and 3 1/2 tackles for losses from Darnodo Smith, a 5-10, 185-pound end from Carver of Montgomery who had five tackles. Another end, 6-2, 258 Nicholas Gentry of Prattville, had two sacks and five total tackles. Brandon High Dorsey, a 6-2, 225 defensive lineman from Auburn High School, had a sack and four tackles for the South.

The North defense was led by linebacker Herschel Houston of Cherokee County, a 6-0, 225-pounder who had 4 1/2 tackles plus four carries for 14 yards. He scored what looked to be the tying touchdown in the third quarter from 11 yards out, but a holding penalty negated the play and the North couldn't cash in when a field goal was off target.

Assisting Curtis on the coaching staff for the winning South squad were David Lowery of Brantley, Clint McCrory of Red Level, Ron Nelson of Central in Phenix City, Jackie O'Neal of Reeltown, Randy Ragsdale from Trinity Presbyterian in Montgomery and Larry Ware from Carver in Montgomery.

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