Ripon coach Chris Johnson didn't really know what to expect when he was asked to get a team of all-stars ready to play a football game with just three days of practice.
How quickly would they pick up the offensive and defensive systems?
Would rival players get a long?
Johnson was pleasantly surprised on all accounts after the North team finished up its final practice on Wednesday night.
"I think we're as ready as we can possibly be after three days of practice," Johnson said. "I told the players we weren't going to get out of here until I felt I'd be able to get some sleep tonight. I think I'll be able to sleep."
Johnson will lead the North in tonight's 28th Annual North/South Rotary All-Star Football Classic tonight at Veterans Stadium on the campus of Golden Valley High.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:45 p.m.
"One thing I was impressed with was the competitive spirit of these players," Johnson said. "All these guys are great athletes or they wouldn't be here. The second thing that impressed me was the camaraderie. I thought I might come out here and see guys from Merced, Golden Valley, Turlock, Atwater and Ripon, but they've really come together."
It helps that many of the players already know each other from Facebook and Twitter.
"There's a lot of talent out here and the talent comes from different areas," said Golden Valley receiver Andre Bodiker. "There's players here from schools I'm not familiar with, but they can play."
Last year the game director, Bob Green, moved Dos Palos and Chowchilla players to the South to set up a Central Section vs Sac-Joaquin Section element to the game. The North won 40-3, but the South leads the all-time series 15-12.
The North has a talented group of running backs led by Los Banos' 2,000-yard running backs James Sams. He'll be joined in the backfield by a trio of 1,000-yard backs in Oakdale's Marcus Northcutt, Golden Valley's Rayshawn Vance and Buhach Colony's Stefon Gold.
Chowchilla quarterback DeVaughn Gaines will be one of the top players to watch for the South. Gaines threw for 811 yards and 11 touchdowns to go along with 1,266 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns.
While the practice settings were pretty relaxed, expect the intensity to pick up when the lights come on tonight.
"You saw the intensity pick up a little bit when the offense went against the defense in practice," said Merced receiver Keith Bolden. "I think it'll get pretty intense once the game starts."'There's a lot of talent out here and the talent comes from different areas. There's players here from schools I'm not familiar with, but they can play.'