The South now trails in the series -- which pits players mainly from San Joaquin and Calaveras counties vs. players mainly from Stanislaus, Merced and Tuolomne counties -- by just 15-13-1 heading into the 30th year next summer.
Central Catholic's Byron Storer, a powerful fullback who plans to walk-on at Cal, was the most impressive player on the field. He rushed for 106 yards on 14 carries and scored the team's go-ahead touchdown on a tackle-breaking 36-yard run early in the second quarter.
Storer benefitted greatly with being able to take handoffs from the same quarterback he's used to, Central Catholic's David Perez, who also threw a pair of touchdown passes.
"I let the quarterback determine which way we were going to run and David did a great job," said South head coach Rusty Stivers (formerly the head coach at Riverbank). "David provided the brains and Byron provided the studliness."
The South scored on its first possession on a 17-yard pass from Perez to Robert Garcia (Grace Davis, Modesto). The pass was tipped at least twice (once by a defender) and finally fell into Garcia's hands.
As the North was being pushed back repeatedly by a much more aggressive South defensive line, it looked like the game would be over quickly. But the North was able to hang in there by producing turnovers, including a fumble that was picked up by Justin Airola (Escalon) and run back almost for a touchdown. The North finally cashed in on that turnover on the fourth play of the second quarter on a one-yard run by Ricky Martinez (Manteca).
The South came right back on a four-play, 76-yard scoring drive that ended with Storer's touchdown and included a 31-yard pass from Perez to Nathyn Parganan (Livingston).
It was 21-7 at halftime after a seven-yard scoring run by Joe Mesa (Turlock) with 1:07 left in the quarter and the second half was pretty much the same with the South throwing back North quarterback Steve Wichman (West, Tracy) for losses whenever the hint of a promising drive was developing. Wichman was sacked eight times and lost 40 yards.
"Their defensive line did such a good job against our offensive line," said North coach Joe Miller (recently retired from Manteca). "We knew all week and told the kids all week that it would come down to that, but they didn't listen. Their kids just came out and hit."
The South got its final touchdown on a three-yard pass from Perez to Steve Meinert (Riverbank) early in the fourth quarter. The North only had 23 total yards offense at the time, but did make their total a little more respectable by then going on its only sustained drive of the game. It didn't net any points as Tim Brown (Franklin) was thrown for a loss on a fourth down play, but it did push the total yardage number up to 74.
Leading that South defense was Grace Davis High's Clayton Casey, who was named his team's defensive MVP.
"This game was so much fun," said Stivers, who will now pursue a master's degree full-time as well as perhaps move on in coaching at the college level. "When we started five months ago, I didn't have my own team so this team was it. It's all I had to do so I was able to watch a lot of film and tried to use everybody in a position best suited to their high school ability."
But the game did have an ugly element to it. After the first play, the South's Jeremy Grivette (Oakdale) and the North's Chris Hegler (Franklin) got into each other, kept on going after the whistle and had to be restrained. A near all-out fight among both teams nearly erupted early in the third quarter and two players were ejected -- the North's Tim Vaughn (St. Mary's) and the South's Cory Fagan (Atwater). Grivette was ejected in the fourth quarter after a third incident.
"More than the loss, I'm most concerned about attitude," Miller said. "These were good kids who didn't say one bad thing all week. Then they came out here and did all kinds of stupid things."