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5 things to watch in tonight's O.C. All-Star Game
North coach Anthony White of Buena Park gathered his team after practice, reminded the players of the opportunity before them and called for a break, the symbolic final cheer.
“Twenty-seven up!” the North players shouted.
The rallying cry was a reference to the all-time series entering Friday night’s 57th installment of the Brea Lions Orange County All-Star Game at Orange Coast College at 7:15 p.m. The South leads, 27-26-3, but the North would like to even the series.
“It means a lot,” North linebacker Connor Airey of Servite said of the break. “It makes us want to actually play harder because it means something to the people who put it on and the coaching staff.”
The South won last year’s game, 30-20, and six of the past seven editions.
“I know the guys that they (the North) have and I think we match up pretty well,” South defensive tackle Keiti Iakopo of Fountain Valley said. “We just have to pull through.”
Here are five things to watch Friday:
1. Both teams love their linebackers, and it’s easy to see why.
The South’s projected starting unit features Tim Newman of San Juan Hills in the middle with JSerra’s Kyle Adams and Corona del Mar’s Karl Donavan on the outside. Newman is a versatile player with an excellent motor. Adams was a tackling machine for the Lions.
“Newman, that guy is crazy,” Iakopo said. “Newman is good. I like that kid.”
The North’s projected starting group counters with Zach Arnold of Brea Olinda in the middle with Airey and La Habra’s Jacob Jones on the outside. Airey is headed to UC Davis while Arnold was another tackling machine last season.
“He’s under-sized but the kid hits,” Airey said of Jones. “He goes for it.”
But also beware of the South’s defensive line, which was a major force in last year’s victory. The group could start Iakopo and Trabuco Hills’ Austin Fine at the tackles with Tesoro’s Chris Evagues and Newport Harbor’s Elliott Frye at the ends.
Evagues was a first-team All-County pick while Iakopo claimed a second-team spot.
“Evagues, he is a beast,” Iakopo said.
Airey also believes the North’s defensive line is a strength, led by Mater Dei defensive end Kapono Lagusian, Sonora tackle Eric Pulliam and Brea Olinda defensive end Brandon Legendre.
2. The South features extra chemistry thanks to having several players already practicing with their next team: Saddleback College.
Starting right guard Babak Ghadak-Saz of University is among the future Gauchos and believes there is about a dozen more South all-stars joining him at the junior college.
“We go to Saddleback first at 2 p.m., then come here (to South practice at Laguna Hills) right afterward,” he said. “We’re really close with each other. We go to Saddleback and we’re talking it up, having fun and we come down here and finish our conversations. … I know a few players go hang out with each other after practice sometimes.”
3. Both teams have under-the-radar players.
For the South, don’t be surprised if University quarterback Neil Boudreau catches your eye. South coach Mike Maceranka of Laguna Hills said Boudreau will rotate every other series with Aliso Niguel’s Nick Chapman. He didn’t throw for a ton of yards but the reviews have been solid and he is headed to San Diego State as a punter.
For the North, safety Jacob Briggs of Valencia was well-known in the Empire League but county fans could see his aggressive style Friday. White said Briggs reminds him of former Buena Park under-sized but aggressive defender Mat Sifuentes.
As for multi-talented players, watch for Foothill’s Matthew O’Donoghue (6-1, 255) to play center and long snap for the North. He is headed to Montana to long snapper. Los Alamitos' Schuyler Whitehead could be the North's only two-way player at safety and receiver.
4. White makes history.
Buena Park coach Anthony White is believed to be the first African-American head coach in the game’s long history, according to game organizer Phil Anton.
“He’s a good guy. Brings the energy, too,” O’Donoghue said. “He knows we want to have a good time but he knows we want to win, too.”
White is African-American and Hispanic.
"It's an honor," he said. "I want to make my family proud. I want to make my players and my hometown proud. ... Even though I'm not on the field, I want make sure the people who believed in me ... are proud and we put on a good show for them.
"And I believe that every day, not just in an all-star game. Every day that we teach, coach and live. I'm excited."
5. Don’t look for television coverage but an up-flip from Sonora running back Jacob Fimbres instead.
The All-County selection has flashed his speed and quickness in practices but also is known to sometimes flip up off the ground from his back.
“I go to the same workout trainer as him,” Airey said of Fimbres. “He gets knocked down and then he does that flip up. … I’ve only seen it a couple times. It’s crazy. He gets to that sideline fast and he’s just gone.”
For the first time in many years, there is no television coverage of the all-star game. Follow ocvarsity.com for coverage.