State

Escalon's McDonald is a shining North Star

WATERFORD -- Friday night was catchup night for Escalon's Charlie McDonald. The 205-pound running back free-safety, disappointed after an injury-riddled end to what was a brilliant season last fall, made up for it during the annual Small-Schools All-Star Football game.

All McDonald did was rush for 184 yards on only eight attempts and simply was the best player on the field during the North's crowd-pleasing 38-22 victory. A crowd of about 1,000 at Wildcat Stadium screamed and sounded airhorns until the end.

"I had to come back and redeem myself," he said. "I had to show everyone I still had it." On defense, McDonald also hustled from five yards behind to track down Big Valley Christian's Blake Sturdivan (15 carries, 114 yards) after a 55-yard dash. His performance spiced a game filled by more than 700 yards of offense and even a dropkick (it was blocked).

The North clinched its sixth straight victory in the series, thanks to the legs of McDonald and the arm of Argonaut quarterback John Hickman. The South rallied from a 26-0 deficit and kept it interesting until it was stopped on the goal line during the game's final minute.

The sun hung above the western uprights and spread long shadows across the field as the small-schools all-stars shook hands before the game and knelt together for a prayer.

Then McDonald went to work.

McDonald fueled Escalon's stirring 11-0 run last fall, rushing for 1,356 yards and 17 touchdowns. An ankle injury slowed him during the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, and it was clear he wasn't 100 percent during the Cougars' win over Calaveras and season-ending loss to Central Catholic.

He also was a non-factor during the North's 19-3 loss at the Lions all-star game in Stockton two weeks ago. That trend ended abruptly Saturday night, however, as his speed and elusiveness shaped the game.

"I didn't get much of a chance at the Lions game," McDonald said. "These plays tonight went more to the outside. That's more me."

McDonald opened the scoring with a short plunge after the North connected on a 46-yard pass from Calaveras' Nick Baatrup, who took a reverse handoff, to Brookside Christian's Brandon Lopez.

The South held the North on the goal line late in the first quarter but couldn't push the ball forward, resulting in a safety two plays later.

Four plays later from the South 28, McDonald swept to the left, shed a tackler at the line of scrimmage and stepped impressively across the goal line.

The South found traction behind the elusive scrambles of quarterback Kyle Hopper -- the hometown hero from Waterford who tossed two touchdown passes --and Blake Sturdivan. But on 4th down from the 11, Calaveras' Alex Fee broke up a near-touchdown catch by Hughson's Michael Whiteside in the end zone.

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