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All-Star notebook: South defense did damage, too
COSTA MESA – A dominant defensive performance helped secure a 30-20 win for the South in the Brea Lions Orange County All-Star Game on Thursday at Orange Coast College.
While the South's offense produced fourth touchdowns, the defensive pressure from the South defense swallowed up the North’s offensive line and clogged the running lanes. The South had seven players with at least five tackles, led by Santa Margarita defensive lineman Stash Rowley.
“It was a great all-around team effort,” Rowley said. “The coaching staff was phenomenal, and they set us up for this.”
Rowley, who was named defensive player of the game, racked up a game-leading 10 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks. He terrorized the North's offense from sideline to sideline, something he took pride in.
“I try to run around,” Rowley said. “Even if the ball’s on the backside of the play, I try to run it down and be all over the place. I want to come out and compete and be the best. That’s an expectation I need for myself.”
South coach Ernie Bucher (Capistrano Valley High) smiled as he talked after the game about the defensive MVP, praising the lineman for his football acumen.
“He’s such a good kid,” Bucher said. “He’s a smart football player who’s just got a great demeanor about him. I’m very happy that he really found a lot of success. The defensive MVP was extra special.”
Bucher was pleased with the performance of the entire defense. He said the defensive line’s ability to put constant pressure on the North quarterbacks allowed the secondary to make big plays.
The South defense tallied four sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.
Bucher said his side came out of the game relatively healthy, with only a few tweaks and bruises, nothing that was too serious.
All-Star Games bring together talented players who are relatively strangers. The players might know each other through scouting reports and social media, but there’s little actual human interaction.
Rowley called his time with his new teammates special.
“It was great,” Rowley said. “Going through practice and stuff, the rigors of that; waking up early for practice and stuff like that, we were able to bond through common struggle.”
Segerstrom’s Kenari Drayton, who had a forced fumble and four tackles in the South's win, echoed Rowley’s message about the group’s ability to gel in such a short period of time.
“I liked getting at it again with different teammates and new coaches,” Drayton said. “It’s all good. It’s fun. Practice tempo was fast, quick. I loved it.”
The game included several bone-jarring hits, which made the crowd 'oooh' and 'ahhh' in unison.
North defensive lineman Logan Wetherholt (Foothill) followed a massive body slam with a nasty block on special teams.
Rowley said playing in the Trinity League prepared him for Thursday's physical play.
Bucher said he thought the physical play had to do with the players being extra hyped.
“This is their last high school football game,” Bucher said. “They hadn’t played for a little while, so they were ready to go out there and do a little bit of hitting. It was fun to see.”
Some of the players did some trash talking during the contest, but others stayed focused on the game.
“I try to stay away from the trash talking,” Rowley said.
North defensive back Austen Christian (Garden Grove) deflected three passes and had some things to say to the receivers he was covering.