MONTGOMERY, AL -- The South All-Stars scored 22 points in the final 19:15 of the game Thursday night to beat the North 22-21 in the 54th playing of the AHSAA North-South All-Star Football Game.
Robertsdale wide receiver Alphonso Stewart made a spectacular catch on fourth-and-5 from the North 6-yard line for the winning touchdown to climax the comeback effort with 31 seconds to play. With the win the South now holds a 29-23-2 edge in the series which began in 1948.
Stewart, who rushed for 106 yards on 19 carries, made his only catch on the night in the right corner of Cramton Bowl end zone – keeping his feet in bounds as he hauled in the toss from quarterback Conner Cramer of Alma Bryant. For his efforts, Stewart was named South MVP.
Conner was 9-of-26 passing for 76 yards and the score. His 18-yard pass to Dadeville’s Terry Toler on first-and-10 from the 29 to the North 11-yard line four plays earlier set up the winning play.
The North took a quick 21-0 lead in the first six minutes of the game with quarterback Deacon Aldridge of Hartselle hooking up with Hoover’s Calen Campbell for a 29-yards TD pass to start the rally with 10:42 left in the first quarter. Aris Freeman of Pinson Valley scored on a 20-yard pass from Madison County quarterback Jackson Richard just 3:08 later to make it 14-0. Defensive end Na’Vante Williams, who finished with three tackles and one pass broken up to earn MVP honors for the North, then scored 90 seconds later on a 45-yard interception return.
The South regrouped, however, and steadily began to control the line of scrimmage in the second period. Down 21-0 midway through the third period, defensive back Dre Hutchinson of Wetumpka made his second interception of the night and returned it four yards to the North 20-yard line. Two plays later, Airion McRae of Clarke County sped around left end for 18 yards and the first South score to cut the lead to 21-7.
Saraland’s Cole Travis booted a 27-yard field goal with 8:42 to play in the fourth quarter as the South scored on its first possession of the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 21-10. Two plays later, McGill-Toolen’s Philbert Martial intercepted a North pass and ran 30 yards for the TD to cut the North’s lead to 21-16.
With 5:32 remaining, the South got the ball back at its own 23 and then marched 77 yards on 16 plays – using up all but the final 31 seconds to get the winning touchdown.
The South had 23 first downs, 248 yards rushing on 54 plays and was 13-of-32 passing overall for 87 yards to finish with 335 total yards on 86 offensive plays. The North had 14 first downs, 141 yards rushing, 105 passing and 246 total yards on 49 plays but threw four interceptions.
McRae added 72 yards rushing on 13 carries for the South. Toler was the leading receiver with six catches for 41 yards. Adrian Kirkland of Dothan had one catch for 20 yards.
Campbell was the North’s leading rusher with 37 yards on seven carries. Tyler Jackson of Muscle Shoals also had 36 on seven attempts. Richard was 4-of-6 passing for 69 yards and Aldridge was 4-of-7 for 36 yards LaGerald Malone of Gadsden City was the leading North receive with 49 yards on three catches.
DeVane Brewster of Ragland had 12 tackles and Peyton Davis of Lexington added 11 to lead the North defense. Shades Valley’s Tommy Jones also had seven tackles with two stops for losses.
Brantley’s Taylor Driggers led the South with seven tackles. Joey Denison of Charles Henderson had six. Hutchinson had two picks, Martial one and Kessy Bell of Demopolis had one.
The football game closed out the all-star competition for the 17th All-Star Sports Week.