Max Blanton made sure to end his high school football career with a bang. He needed more of his San Luis Obispo County teammates to make the same impact.
Former Nipomo High quarterback Chris Souza found Paso Robles’ Blanton streaking up the sideline, and Blanton sprinted untouched for a 76-yard touchdown catch.
Blanton’s was the biggest play of the night, and it earned him the offensive MVP Award for the North, a team of San Luis Obispo County all-stars playing in the second annual FCA All-Star Classic at Memorial Stadium in Atascadero.
But in a game that featured too few highlights for Blanton and his teammates, the South — a team comprised of Northern Santa Barbara County seniors with players from the PAC 7 and Los Padres League — took the game with a slow and steady philosophy.
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Victors for the second straight year, the South won 27-14 in a game that had a similar feel to a 29-7 South victory at Pioneer Valley last year.
St. Joseph quarterback Paul Avila completed 19 of 30 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns, Cabrillo’s T.J. Babauta ran for a 4-yard score and Santa Ynez kicker Marcos Uribe hit 21- and 25-yard field goals for the South, which sapped all but 1:04 off the clock in the third quarter with a single field goal drive.
The South used a committee of running backs and an advantage in the trenches to churn yards and converted as many short-yardage fourth downs (six) as it did third downs.
Conversely, the North had only one successful third-down conversion in the game and did not get a first down until four minutes into the second quarter.
Souza was 15 of 22 for 193 yards and two touchdowns passing. San Luis Obispo’s Trevor McGuire caught a 14-yard touchdown in the first half, but the North played catch-up for nearly the entire game.
Blanton had four catches for 108 yards, former Tribune County Player of the Year and Cal Poly signee Elias Stokes (Paso Robles) caught four passes for 37 yards, and Atascadero running back Deontae Barnes had three catches for 20 yards.
While the North was not plagued by the turnovers and sloppy play that spelled doom in last year’s game, it suffered from a distinct disadvantage up front.
North runners rushed 18 times but combined for 0 rushing yards. The North collected only seven first downs.
The game was presented by the local chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which brought former Florida State quarterback Chris Rix in as a guest speaker.
The first Seminoles quarterback to start for four seasons, Rix works for the FCA in Los Angeles, runs a football academy in the offseason and works as a sportscaster for high school games on Fox Sports West.
Rix preached the awareness of Christianity, but he also warned of the pitfalls that can befall college students and implored the players to make good character decisions.
“As a former high school athlete who was fortunate enough and blessed like some of these young men to play college football, I know now everything’s going to change,” Rix said, “not just the level of competition, but their lives are going to change.
“I wish I had a speaker talk about not just football, but what I’m going to experience as a man and as a student athlete, the good things and the not good things. That’s why I thought it was very important to be here.”