With the North alternating quarterbacks every series, it was hard for Shawn Munoz of Enochs or Billy Marr of Ripon Christian to get into a rhythm.
It showed as each turned over the ball on the first two series.
Munoz finally let his feet take over, as he scored on a 1-yard plunge and a 15-yard run in the first half. The North defense took over from there in a 15-0 shutout over the South in the 30th annual North/South Rotary All-Star Football Game on Friday night at Veterans Stadium in Merced.
“It was hard to get anything going with us rotating in and out after every series,” Munoz said. “It’s hard to sit out and then go back in, but that second series we were able to get going.”
It was an ugly start for both teams. After the South punted on its first possession, the teams turned over the ball four times combined.
The North finally assembled a drive after Atwater defensive back Sal Duran scooped up a fumble by Tamar Johnson of Central-Fresno at the South 45-yard line.
The North kept the ball on the ground for a seven-play drive with Munoz carrying five times for 33 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown with 1:03 left in the first quarter. Ripon Christian’s Kevin Kramer kicked the extra point to give the North a 7-0 lead.
Duran set up the North offense for another score when he intercepted a pass by Madera’s Nathaniel Nelson and returned it to the South 45.
“I was playing deep, and I saw him launch it,” Duran said. “I went to go help out. Once I got it, I turned around and looked for my blockers. Once I got downfield, I was gassed.”
The North needed two plays to march into the end zone, as Munoz found Patterson’s Damarrio Hammonds on a quick pass to the sideline and Hammonds tip-toed his way down the field for a 30-yard gain.
Munoz then scrambled right and headed straight up the middle for a 15-yard touchdown. Munoz added a two-point conversion option run to give the North a 15-0 lead with 52 seconds left in the first half.
“We called four (verticals) on that play,” Munoz said. “I knew we didn’t have that much room for it, and I knew the middle would be open so I just took it.”
Munoz led the North with 48 yards passing and 45 yards rushing.
“He’s a great athlete,” said Pacheco’s David Snapp, who coached the North. “I told him on Tuesday he may end up rushing for 300 yards if we have trouble pass protecting. I knew if things broke down, he could make something out of nothing.”
The South struggled against the North defense. Pitman’s Jason Foglia, Escalon’s Javier Perez and Merced’s Kenneth Hamel each recorded sacks. Duran, Los Banos’ Alec Barcellos and Turlock’s Jacob Mabie each had an interception.
Johnson was the South’s only threat with 62 rushing yards on 10 attempts. The North held the South to 154 total yards.
“We played outstanding,” Snapp said. “We had some early opportunities that we didn’t cash in on that could have cost us. I knew from day one that our defense would be our backbone. They played great.”
After Munoz’s second touchdown, the North didn’t do much on offense, as the South held the North 185 yards.
Buhach Colony’s Justin Stefani did deliver some big runs and finished with 40 yards on five carries as the North evened the series 15-15.
“This was a good last high school game,” Stefani said. “It’s good to go out with a W. The team played great. I think the scoreboard showed how well we came together in a short time.”
Shawn Jansen: 209-385-2462