The North’s Clint McPeek (27) has the ball slip between his fingertips on a pass in the end zone as the South’s Chris Gallegos defends during Friday night’s all-star game in Albuquerque. (AP photo: Greg Sorber)
By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
ALBUQUERQUE — Don’t try to tell Clovis’ Jason Burns that it was a meaningless all-star game.
After the South suffered a rare loss to the North in the 4A-5A All-Star football contest on Friday, Burns — one of four Clovis players on the South squad — was fuming over the 21-0 setback.
It was the first win for the North since 2000 and, in fact, the first time the North even scored a point since the 2001 contest.
And it left Burns none too happy.
“The defense played phenomenal, but offensive turnovers and mistakes killed us. The referees didn’t help the game too much either,” Burns grumbled. “I mean, they threw I don’t know how many personal fouls on us.
“They (the North players) were getting dirty out there with us and we were trying to retaliate. Every time we retaliated, they threw flags on us.”
Along with Burns, the Clovis contingent included quarterback John Props, running back Phillip Williams and defensive back Jacob Jones.
For the recent Wildcats, the game itself at University Stadium on the campus of the University of New Mexico was not one worth recollecting — for the most part.
When a Props punt fluttered out of bounds for virtually no yardage in the first quarter, the North took over at the South 29 yard line. The North converted the scoring opportunity with 5:34 left in the opening period when Highland’s Ian Clark ran in from four yards out for a 7-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Williams fumbled a ball that the North recovered at the South 39. The South got out of that jam, however, when the subsequent drive ended with a missed North field goal attempt.
The Clovis highlight of the night came late in the first half as the North threatened to score again. With 1:29 left before intermission, Jones intercepted a pass by Los Alamos’ Pete Parker in the end zone to keep the deficit at only one touchdown.
“That felt really good — one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” Jones said. “If we could have gotten our offense going, that could have been a big momentum swinger.”
As it was, the big swing in momentum came early in the second half. After the South defense initially stymied the North attack, a roughing-the-punter penalty gave the North offense new life — which it parlayed into a long drive and a 1-yard run by St. Pius’ Kevin Gonzales with 7:16 left in the third quarter.
Less than two minutes later, La Cueva’s Frankie Baca rushed for a 6-yard touchdown for the final score of the evening.
Though Burns was fiery about the loss, we was just as passionate about his new teammates — including players from longtime Clovis rivals.
“I love these guys. I’d go to war with any one of these guys,” said Burns as he grabbed a passing-by Ross Conner from Mayfield. “It took us a week, but we came together more as a team than I did with almost two years with the Wildcats.”