The South squad picked up a 28-23 victory over the North on Saturday in the West Central Illinois All-Star football game in Carlinville.
North struck first with a 9-play, 85-yard drive in the opening quarter that was capped off by a 40-yard pass play from Jake Hunt of New Berlin to Zac Lonergan of Jacksonville. The drive took 3:17. Auburn's Noah Meyer had two key runs of 12 and 14 yards that picked up first downs.
The South answered with a 10-play, 54-yard drive that started with :04 left in the opening quarter and ended when Austin Plogger of Greenfield/Northwestern had a nifty 17-yard run for the TD to tie the game. Logan Ross of North Greene added the PAT kick to make it 7-6. Plogger also had two catches for 11 yards and a 4-yard run in the drive quarterbacked by Nathan Randall of North Greene.
The North came back on the ensuing drive and retook the lead on a 23-yard field goal by Brandon Moody of Taylorville at 9-7 with 6:45 left in the second quarter. The key play on this drive was a 39-yard run by Williamsville quarterback Luke Bleyer that set up a first-and-goal at the South's 9-yard line.
The South took advantage of a North miscue after being stopped on a 3-and-out on their next possession. Logan Ross had a high, short punt that bounced off the back of Andrew Basnet of Routt Catholic and the loose football was recovered by Carrollton's Cody Leonard at the 44-yard line of the North. Joeb Easterday of Carlinville came in under center and found Chas Lewis of North Greene for a 6-yard completion and then scrambled for a first down at the North 34-yard line.
Two plays later, Easterday hooked up with Justin Scheets of Greenfield/Northwestern on a 27-yard pass play to set up first-and-goal at the 3 yard line. Easterday then handed off to teammate Kinney Myles of Carlinville who used asecond effort to get into the end zone for the touchdown. Freeburg's Robby Vall ran in the 2-point conversion for a 15-9 South lead.
Late in the first half, the North gambled and it cost them. Facing a fourth-and-3 from their own 41 yard line, they elected to go for it rather than punt. Luke Bleyer's pass fell incomplete and the South took over on downs with 2:02 left. This time, it was Carrollton quarterback Jacob Smith at the helm as he engineered a 4-play 41-yard drive to extend the South's lead. He hit Austin Plogger for a 15-yard pickup to the 32.
Then it was a bizarre play that set up the TD. Smith handed off to Robby Vall, who collided with teammate Kinney Myles. As Vall was going down, Smith called for him to pitch the ball back to him, which Vall did. Smith then found a wide open Logan Ross in the flat as he took it 32 yards for the score. Ross then added the PAT kick to make it 22-9 South at halftime.
The North rallied in the third quarter to regain the lead. After both teams traded interceptions, the North put together a 10-play 36-yard drive that featured two penalties on the South inside the 5-yard line.
Jake Hunt connected with Hayden Eddings of Petersburg PORTA on a 12-yard pass play to set up a first down at the South 20-yard line. Two plays later, Hunt found Zac Lonergan on a 14-yard pass to set up first-and-goal at the 6. Noah Meyer of Auburn picked up one yard in-between two penalties that set up second-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Kyle Mowen of Pleasant Hill – on his only carry of the game – scored from one yard out and Moody added the PAT kick to cut the lead to 22-16.
The North again took advantage of a South turnover getting great field position at the South 31 following a fumble recovery by Carrigan McMahon of Athens. Josh Talley of Chatham-Glenwood picked up 13 yards for a first down at the 18 and then Hunt hit Marshall Call of Rochester on an 18-yard pass play to tie the game. Moody added the PAT to give the North the lead back 23-22 after three quarters.
On the ensuing kickoff, Kinney Myles nearly broke it for a TD as he used his size and speed for a 54-yard return setting up a first down at the North 33. But the South was unable to capitalize as Nathan Randall's pass was picked off at the 10-yard line.
The South defense held the North and forced them to punt the ball from their own 18. Moody had a 36-yard punt, but Kareem Hamilton of Alton had a big return as he brought it back 41 yards to set up the South with a first down at the North 13. After two short runs of one and three yards by Austin Plogger, the South faced fourth-and-1 at the 4-yard line. Robby Vall got the call and he went the distance taking it 4-yards for the TD. The pass failed, but the South had regained the lead 28-23 with 14:03 left in the fourth quarter.
The South defense forced another punt by the North and following Elijah Barber of Carlinville's 9-yard return, the South again had excellent field position at North 41. Easterday and Kareem Hamilton hooked up on a 5-yard pass and Vall gained six yards for a first down at the 30. After Easterday was sacked for a 6-yard loss, he again found Hamilton on a pass play as he was forced out of the bounds at the 33 with 11:11 left in the game.
At that point, officials observed lightning and delayed the game. It was called 45 minutes later after determining that more inclement weather was moving into the area.
It is the second time in three years that the game has been shortened due to weather. In 2013, the game was called with 4:30 remaining due to storms in the area.
Robby Vall of Freeburg was named MVP. Aaron Kunz of Williamsville was honored at halftime as the West Central Illinois Coach of the Year.