The annual Ohio North-South All-Star Game was played tonight at Ohio Stadium in front of a few thousand fans who came to see the best high school football players in the Buckeye State battle things out one last time before heading to the colleges of their choice. The game was played in April for the first time in it's time as the OHSAA moved the game up so that it didn't conflict with the Big 33 Game, which features elite players from Ohio facing their counterparts from Pennsylvania.
Five Ohio State signees participated in the contest and got to show the host school fans a glimpse of the future. WR Tyrone Williams, DB Christian Bryant, DL Darryl Baldwin, and DL JT Moore represented the North team, while Verlon Reed played quarterback and wide receiver for the South squad.
Things started out slow in the game as the North lead 6-0 for most of the first half after Jerrod Ronyak (Mentor Lake Catholic/Kent State) hooked up with Chase Hammond (Youngstown Boardman/Wisconsin) on a 55 yard pass with 6:13 left in the first quarter. The pass came on the drive right after Verlon Reed was intercepted by the North's Parnell Taylor (Ravenna/Undecided) on a pass that was thrown a bit behind his target. The extra point was blocked on the try, which shed some foreshadowing on the rest of the night's scoring drives.
The South finally answered with 42 seconds remaining in the half as Patrick Angle (Logan/Youngstown State) connected with Jack Tomlinson (Westerville South/Ball State) on a 32 yard touchdown. Christian Bryant was in pursuit of the play, but couldn't shed his blocker in the secondary as Tomlinson sprinted into the end zone. The PAT was blocked by Micah Robinson (Cleveland John Adams/Syracuse) and the score was tied at 6-6.
Just as you thought things were going tied into the half, the North struck through the air quickly and with 17 seconds left, Ronyak found a wide open Hammond once again for 56 yards and the score. Want to guess what happened on the PAT? Yep, it was blocked by Roosevelt Nix (Reynoldsburg/Kent State) and the score favored the North 12-6.
On the ensuing possession the South was intercepted by Luke Wollett (Poland Seminary/Kent State), but the South caught a break as North quarterback EJ Tucker (Toledo Rogers/Toledo) was stripped by Mark Fackler (Kenton/Kent State) and teammate Nix picked it up and took it to the house for 40 yards to tie the game at 12 as time expired. Finally a team held some blocks and the extra point was good, giving the South a 13-12 lead at the break.
The second half was just flat out dominated by the South, despite the North making a fourth quarter run at trying to even up the game. The victors took a 16-12 lead when Kyle Clinton (Dublin Coffman/Ohio) nailed a 27 yarder after JT Moore had a big sack on a second and goal defensive stand. A drive later, Verlon Reed took a quarterback draw 37 yards for an impressive score, putting the South up 23-12 after another successful kick.
The North had a great drive to start off the fourth, but after being stopped on third and goal from the 10-yard line, Carey Spear (Mayfield/Vanderbilt) missed a 28-yard attempt that would have made it a one-score game. The North showed great effort in trying to score a comeback win and finally their defense came up big for them with 2:36 left in the game. As the South was trying to move the chains and eat up the clock, Jayron Elliot (Glenville/Toledo) made a huge hit on Tucker, causing the ball to fall loose. Antonio Kinard (Liberty/Michigan) was there to pick it up and took it 45 yards to the house to bring the score to 23-18. Tyrone Williams successfully caught a ball on a fade route on the two-point attempt to bring the North within three.
The next play, the North recovered an onside kick, but wasn't able to come through when it mattered most, failing to put themselves within range for a game-tying field goal attempt. The score at the end of the game may have been 23-20, but those in attendance know that the South clearly outplayed the North en route to the win. The Offensive MVP honors went to future Buckeye Verlon Reed who made plays for the South offense all day, while the Defensive MVP was Jibreel Black, whohad three sacks and is committed to Michigan (after committing to Indiana and Cincinnati).
It was definitely a worthwhile event to be at, as Buckeye fans got a nice look at five future players and the state of Ohio got to see a group of the best high school football players go at it one more time before they head to their respective colleges.
Here are some observations about the OSU signees from the game and video interviews with Verlon Reed and Christian Bryant after the game:
Christian Bryant is definitely going to be a good player, but didn't stand out the way I thought he would in the game. Playing defensive back and returning kicks and punts, Bryant showed flashes of greatness, but never showed a true separation in talent over the 48 minutes of football that you expect from a future OSU player in a game like this.
Darryl Baldwin and JT Moore held their own on the defensive line, but didn't make any big plays until Moore's sack in the third quarter. I think both will red-shirt next year and are projects for Jim Heacock.
Speaking of Baldwin, he reminds me a lot of Doug Worthington and I can seem him outgrowing defensive end at OSU and becoming a tackle one day. Tight End is not out of the question either for Baldwin one day, but I really don't wish that upon him.
Tyrone Williams is REALLY big in person and I kept asking myself why the North didn't just throw it up and let him catch it. There were a lot of times when Williams was in 1-on-1 coverage with no safety over the top, but the routes called were crossing patterns. Williams can contribute right away as a red-zone threat for OSU.
Verlon Reed showed great speed and athleticism playing quarterback and receiver. His 37-yard touchdown run was quite impressive as he broke away from some tackles and accelerated well into the open field. He was not impressive throwing the ball though, and will almost certainly be a safety at Ohio State.
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