MERCED — James Sams wasn't going to let one fumble ruin his night.
The Los Banos running back watched as his mistake helped let the South back in the game late in the third quarter.
Sams more than made up for the blunder, when he took a handoff on the North's next play and raced 88 yards for a touchdown. Sams put on a show, carrying the ball six times for 171 yards and three touchdowns.
However, it wasn't enough.
The South had a star of its own in Chowchilla quarterback DeVaughn Gaines who led a fourth quarter comeback to send the 28th annual North/South Rotary All-Star Football Classic into overtime and then found Washington Union's Greg Wilson for a 17-yard touchdown pass in overtime to give the South a 35-28 lead Friday night at Veterans Stadium.
Wilson caught three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime combined.
It was a tough loss for the North as it watched a 28-14 lead evaporate late.
It was Sams who put on a show early.
"I've never wanted the ball more than after that fumble," Sams said. "I was mad."
Sams exploded through a big hole and headed up the right sideline as he outran two South defenders into the end zone.
Earlier, he scored from 1 yard out to give the North a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter, then added a 72-yard TD dash on a wrap-around draw. He needed 17 yards for a first down, but saw nothing but green turf between him and the end zone.
"As soon as I got the ball I was thinking seven points," Sams said. "It was wide open. All I saw was one guy and I'll usually try to beat one guy. I thought I would be able to beat him with my speed to the outside and I was able to."
The South, which was made up of Central Section players, erased the two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter with two late touchdowns.
The North defense was chasing Gaines all over the field all night.
The Menlo College-bound quarterback carried the ball 17 times for 85 yards and a touchdown. He also completed 12 of 22 passes for 155 yards, including a 22-yard strike to Washington Union's Greg Wilson that pulled the South to within 28-26 with 2:59 left. Gaines then found Central's Darius Green for the two-point conversion to tie the game 28-all.
Gaines came through again in the first overtime, finding Wilson for a 17-yard touchdown that proved to be the game-winner.
Merced's Keith Bolden put his mark on the game early by catching an early touchdown for the North. Bolden leaped and hauled in a 12-yard pass in the end zone.
"Luckily the guy was short," Bolden said. "I didn't see the ball until it hit my hands."
Despite the loss it'll be a memorable night for Sams.
"I didn't think I'd have a game like this," Sams said. "How could you? If you did you'd be Barry Sanders."