South All-Star running back Jaron Hytche of Mater Dei dives for a touchdown during the 50th Brea Lions O.C. North-South All-Star Game on Friday night. The South won the contest, 38-21.

South wins high-scoring battle

South wins high-scoring battle
The 50th O.C. All-Star Game starts out one-sided but the North battles back.

COSTA MESA - The South started fast and ended up needing most of its cushion to hold off the North on Friday night.

After scoring the first 31 points, the South held on for a 38-21 victory in the 50th Brea Lions Orange County North-South Prep All-Star Football Game at Orange Coast College.

In snapping a two-year losing streak, the South blocked a punt early en route to opening a 31-0 lead at halftime. The South then nearly shut out the North for three quarters.

South coach Brian Barnes of Tesoro also handed his father, North coach John Barnes of Los Alamitos, his first loss in all-star competition. The elder Barnes saw his record fall to 4-1-1.

The game ended up being one of the highest scoring in the series.

The North capitalized on the game’s rule that allows a team trailing by 10 points or more the option of receiving the kick after it scores.

The South defense logged heavy minutes in the second half and then had to chase La Habra running back Ronnie Hillman in the fourth quarter. The San Diego State-bound speedster scored twice in the fourth quarter, including once after the North scored and received the kickoff. He also broke a 74-yard run.

Tesoro defensive end Tanner Hodgdon of the South earned the defensive player of the game by recording two of his team’s six sacks. Westminster linebacker Aaron Garbutt also had two sacks.

Santa Margarita cornerback AJ Cruz had two interceptions, including one returned 52 yards for a touchdown that gave the South a 38-14 lead with 7:42 left in the fourth.

South quarterback Robbie Picazo of Tesoro saw limited action in the second half but did his damage in the first half. The Register’s offensive player of the year completed 9 of 14 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns.

But North wide out Scotty Williams of Orange Lutheran earned the offensive player of the game. The Army-bound recruit matched the game record with 11 receptions and set a game record with 150 yards.

“Kids played great,” Brian Barnes said. “Defense was tremendous and our offensively we were clicking. … But the biggest part of the game was that our defensive line was better than their offensive line.”

The South scored 21 points in the first quarter to take control.

After the South defense stopped the North on the opening series, Edison’s Matt Reza blocked a punt that gave the South the ball at the North’s 26.

Seven plays later, Picazo lofted a 3-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone to Santa Margarita wide out Gavin Escobar (San Diego State).

After the South defense then stopped the North again, Brian Barnes’ called the first trick play and it set up another score.

The South lined up second quarterback Andrew McDonald at wide out. Picazo tossed a quick out to McDonald, who connected on the double pass to Escobar for a 36-yard gain to the North’s 17. On the next play, Dana Hills running back Brett Giesen scored on a run as the North took a 14-0 lead with 5:50 left in the opening quarter.

The North offense appeared to find a groove on its third drive but it ended with a fumble recovery by Fountain Valley linebacker Artie O’Keefe at his 46.

Five plays later, Mater Dei running back Jaron Hytche scored on a 15-yard run as the South opened a 21-0 advantage with 1:45 left in the quarter.

The North offense gained 112 yards in the quarter but was jittery. Besides the fumble lost, the North had four other fumbles but was able to recover them. In the second half, the North struggled with several dropped passes.

Picazo stayed hot in the second quarter. The Stanford-bound preferred walk-on tossed a spectacular 43-yard touchdown pass to Tesoro teammate Preston King to give the South a 28-0 cushion with 6:48 left in the second period. On third-and-10, Picazo rolled to his left before finding King in the end zone.

The North responded with its best drive of the first half.

Coach John Barnes used his own trick play to spark the drive. North quarterback Clark Evans of Los Alamitos threw a short out pass to Williams, who tossed back to Evans. The Colorado-bound passer then connected with Los Alamitos teammate Darryl Jenkins for a 42-yard gain to the South’s 13. Jenkins made excellent stretching grab.

But the drive stalled thanks to more South defense. Garbutt helped slow the South by sacking Evans for a 10-yard loss to the South 20 on third down.

After a South penalty, Cruz intercepted a fourth-down pass in the end zone with 3:05 left.

The South added a 41-yard field goal by Central Michigan-bound Richie Hogan of Laguna Hills to take a 31-0 lead with 50 seconds left in the half.

After a bout of the drops early in the second half, the North finally scored on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Evans to Williams with 17 seconds left in the third.

The North then received the kickoff and quickly drove for a 4-yard touchdown run by Hillman, who made it 31-14 with 8:59 left.

After the score, the North received another kickoff but Cruz helped seal the victory with his interception return with 7:42 left.

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