STOCKTON -- One more high school football game was played Saturday night, giving Sac-Joaquin Section all-stars and their families one last thrill.
The 38th Annual Lions' All-Star Game was a bit of an exercise in futility, though, for the South, which lost 21-6 to their counterparts from the North.
After 17 minutes, the South looked poised to get into the game. Behind a strong rushing attack, Turlock coach James Peterson's South squad drove into the North's 31 yard line.
After five consecutive running plays, Peterson opted to hit the North with a play action pass. The call looked good as quarterback Cody Weinzheimer of Patterson saw an open Alex Martinez (Le Grand) sprinting down the middle of the field.
Unfortunately, Weinzheimer's pass had a little too much air. All Martinez could do was tip the ball into the waiting arms of North safety Monti Wilson (Calaveras) for an interception.
Once the turnovers started, they didn't stop. The South turned the ball over in three straight possessions, leading to its downfall at Stagg Stadium at the University of the Pacific.
"The interception, that was the turning point," Peterson said. "That was a good drive with good momentum. We had the pass too, but we just didn't execute. It was the story of the night."
Things started promisingly enough for the South. Ravonne Pious (Orestimba) led a touchdown drive on the second possession of the game. He hit Enochs High's Herbert Whitehurst with a 29-yard touchdown pass to make the score 6-0.
"Tonight was a great experience," Whitehurst said. "I thought I was going to be at running back, but got lined at wide receiver. It was a lot of fun to try. I thought we were going to come out big after that first score."
Quarterback Teejay Gordon of East Union got the North on the board with a 6-yard touchdown run. Tracy's Casey Wichman put the North up for good on its next possession with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Collin Rhoads (Lodi).
Wichman was the Offensive Player of the Game, completing 7 of 11 passes for 47 yards and two touchdowns.
The South tried to get back into the game in the second half using its speed on the ground.
A steady dose of Turlock's Ricky Fuentes and Buhach Colony's Jarrell Davis drove them 29 yards on five plays, but the South had its best scoring chance of the half snuffed out by the interception.
The South defense responded with a hold, but the ball was fumbled back to them by Arquel Rogers (Modesto), who couldn't handle the punt.
The North took advantage, putting the game away six plays later. On a fourth and one from the two yard line, Wichman hit Donzale Ashley with a 2-yard fade route. Fourth down was the South's Achilles' heel all night, allowing 4 of 5 conversions.
"Basically, we didn't make plays when we needed to," said defensive end Malcolm Mann of Merced, who was named Defensive Player of the Game. "We had opportunities to get them off the field, and we didn't get it done."
The South never threatened again, turning the ball on downs in its last two possessions.
Wienzheimer finished the night with 6 of 12 passing for 67 yards. Fuentes led the team with 49 rushing on five carries. Johansen's Michael Brown caught the team high three passes for 54 yards.