The North offense never got on track. Outside of a few big plays, the North had a tough time moving the chains during a 23-5 loss to the South in the 34th annual North/South Rotary Bob Green Football Classic on Saturday night at Veterans Stadiums.
Four first-half turnovers were big reasons the North, which is comprised of schools from the Southern half of the Sac-Joaquin Section, was limited to just two points on a safety in the first half. The South team is a collection of stars from Central Section schools.
“Our timing was just off,” said former Merced receiver Xavier Stewart. “If we could have had more time to prepare we could have done better.”
The game was scoreless until former Madera quarterback Colt Nelson threw two first-half touchdowns. Nelson connected on a 33-yard scoring strike to former Central receiver Milton Clements with 10 minutes, 42 seconds left in the second quarter for a 7-0 lead.
Nelson dropped the pass just over the arms of former Golden Valley linebacker Devon Johnson.
“I jumped a little early,” Johnson said. “I took my eyes off the ball for one second. It was a bad play on my part.”
Nelson’s second touchdown toss was a screen pass to his former Madera teammate JJ Espinoza, who did the heavy lifting on the play, taking the short pass 74 yards for the score and a 13-2 lead with 2:36 left in the first half.
It’s not the first time Nelson has performed well at Veterans Stadium. He threw for 376 yards and five touchdowns in a 63-35 loss to Merced last season.
Hilmar’s Brennan Mason provided the only points for the North in the first half when he sacked Nelson in the end zone for a safety with just over 4 minutes left in the second quarter.
Los Banos’ Dasani Tate provided two highlight plays for the North in the first half, recording a sack to stop a South drive on fourth down deep in North territory. Tate also blocked an extra point in the second quarter.
Stewart also delivered a highlight when he executed a fake punt on his own, running around the left side for 11 yards and a first down in the first quarter.
“When they lined up, I knew their guys were going to bail on the left side,” Stewart said. “That’s what they did when I sold the punt.”
Outside of a couple long catches from El Capitan’s Ronnie Harris and Buhach Colony’s Brendan Ekizian and a long run by Modesto’s Zaire Eugene, it was a long night for the North offense.
The North’s biggest play was a 50-yard field goal by Stone Ridge Christian’s Jordan Hooker in the third quarter.
Hooker made just two field goals with a long of 35 yards for the Knights, but drew a big reaction from the crowd of about 3,000 people when he drilled the long kick.
“I felt good,” Hooker said. “In pregame I hit one from 35 yards so I felt good about the kick.”
The North’s biggest issue was turnovers as the South came up with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries in the first half.
Despite losing, the North players enjoyed one last high school game. Many stayed after the game to take pictures with family and friends.
“This was super fun,” Johnson said. “I haven’t played ball in a little while. It was good to get back out here.”