The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

High School Sports

June 23, 2014

Camaraderie high for South Cardinals

CHARLESTON — Although the South Cardinals celebrated their fifth straight win over the North Bears Saturday night at the North-South All-Star Classic, many of the memories that the players will cherish forever came not under the lights of Laidley Field with the fans watching but on the practice fields and in the dorms during the week of preparation leading up to the kickoff.

“It was remarkable,” said Summers County’s Isaiah Brown. “I’ll never forget it. It was an amazing week and a great way to end my high school career.”

“It was great,” agreed Woodrow Wilson’s Chase Hancock. “I would do it all over again, even the hot practices.”

Perhaps one of the most eye-opening aspects of the week for the high school seniors was how quickly rivals can become friends when wearing the same uniform.

“The vibe and meeting new guys that you didn’t know (was great),” said Oak Hill’s Jalen Jones. “You thought some of those guys were jerks, and then you get to know them and it was a wonderful thing to play together.”

“It’s amazing how fast you become friends,” added Greenbrier East quarterback Isaiah Kinder, seconds before sharing a hug with Hancock, who had been a bitter rival on both the football field and the basketball court. “We shared stories about games of the past, and it was a lot of fun. It was a really good experience to meet some new guys and do some different things.”

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While area athletes clearly had a huge impact on offense — Greenbrier West’s Malik Boatwright, Jones, Nicholas County’s Tyler Sagraves and Kinder played a part in five of the South’s seven touchdowns — and defense — Brown led his South team with eight tackles, Hancock had four tackles and an interception, Meadow Bridge’s Jake Parker had 4 1/2 tackles, Nicholas County’s Austin Hill had 2 1/2 tackles, including a tackle for loss, Wyoming East’s Jacob Summe had a pair of tackles and Greenbrier West’s Corey Cox, a late addition to the roster, had a tackle — there were some huge special teams contributions that might have gone overlooked.

Boatwright’s 58-yard punt return for a touchdown was difficult to ignore, put Parker also had a couple of solid kickoff returns, bringing two back for a total of 29 yards.

Hill showed off his big leg on kickoffs, averaging 53.7 yards on seven kicks, including a pair of touchbacks.

Jones was successful on four of his six extra-point tries. The other two were blocked. He also kicked off twice, averaging 37.5 yards. That number is skewed a little, though, because of a squib kick he attempted with just a few seconds left in the game.

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Even with some of the state’s top ball carriers on the field, rushing yards were difficult to find Saturday, a testament to the defensive lines of both teams and the speed of the linebackers. The Cardinals netted just 49 rushing yards on 18 runs, while the North netted negative-28 on 25 runs. Four South sacks for 45 yards helped push that North number in the wrong direction.

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On paper, the North seemed to have the upper hand in Saturday’s game. The Bears had 21 first downs to the Cardinals’ 10. The North outgained the South 303 yards to 277, even with that negative rushing number, and the Bears held a huge advantage in time of possession, holding onto the football for more than 31 of 48 minutes.

But the North just couldn’t keep the football in its hands. The Bears fumbled six times, losing three of those, and threw a pair of interceptions. Two of those fumble recoveries were returned for scores, and the result was a 46-26 blowout for the South.

The North has won the annual all-star showcase just twice in the last 10 years, a 9-7 victory in 2005 and a 22-0 triumph in 2009.

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A little-known rule of the North-South game gave the North three straight possessions at the end of the game.

A rule established to keep the game interesting and avoid blowouts allowed the North to receive the kickoff immediately after scoring two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the game. The news was not received well on the South sideline, as players gestured their frustration toward the press box as an announcement was made explaining the rule.

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The 2014 West Virginia Athletic Coaches Association Coach of the Year honorees were presented with plaques at halftime to commemorate their accomplishments. Locally, Bluefield’s Buster Large (boys basketball), Westside’s Jamie Lusk (girls basketball), Greenbrier East’s Matt Sauvage (volleyball) and Independence’s Cliff Warden (wrestling) were honored. Other winners included Parkersburg High’s Rod O’Donnell (boys track), Williamstown’s Zach Hall (girls track), Man’s Larry Vance (baseball), Tucker County’s Amy Kyle (cheer), Lincoln County’s Rob Hoover (softball), Huntington’s Joan Poole (tennis) and Bridgeport’s Josh Nicewarner (football).

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Scholarship presentations were made following the game, and a number of area athletes earned some help toward their college education. Earning North-South Scholarships were Parker, Hancock and Brown. Parker and Hancock will be walking on at Marshall, while Brown is headed to Concord.

Earning the Bob Pruett/Friends of Coal Scholarship was Boatwright. He’s unsure about his college future, although the state champion wrestler is considering heading to Alderson-Broaddus to continue his wrestling career.

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Three area cheerleaders were also part of the North-South festivities Saturday night. Faith Grimmett (Greenbrier West), Peyton Jones (Oak Hill) and Sam Wilson (Midland Trail) were among the 32 cheerleaders, under the direction of South Charleston’s Pebblez Anderson, keeping the crowd into the game.

— E-mail: and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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