CLEARWATER — Trailing 13-0 Wednesday, few gave the plodding North squad much of a chance to rally against the South in the Pinellas All-Star Football Classic.
But the North did, relying not only on a power offense but a defense geared to prevent big plays by the South's array of talented stars.
The rest of the game went the only way it could if the North were to win: grind it out, mix it up on offense, make a nice gain off a play fake, then halt the South's stars on defense.
The North's offense was built around big linemen blocking for running backs Jamaal Wilburn of East Lake and Alton Taylor of Countryside. Wilburn had the most productive night, gaining 47 yards and scoring on a 3-yard run that put the finishing touches on the North's comeback in a 24-13 victory.
For his efforts, Wilburn was named the game's MVP.
"I wasn't too nervous when we fell behind," Wilburn said. "I knew I just had to work hard and get the team motivated."
Some other highlights from the game:
Quick strikes, quick start: The South got things going early with Osceola running back Edwin McKinney slicing through the North defense. His running helped set up a 4-yard touchdown by Dixie Hollins' Cedric Williams. The South's other score came when Gibbs quarterback Josh Rembert, the offensive MVP, threw a 17-yard pass to St. Petersburg Catholic's Julian Smith.
Reunited: Two years ago, Ryan Singer and Jimbo Chmelik were quarterbacks at Countryside. Then Singer transferred to Dunedin. Wednesday, the two shared quarterbacking duties for the North and each threw for a touchdown. Chmelik's score came on a 25-yard pass to Palm Harbor University's Mike McNeely. Singer's was a 4-yard pass to Clearwater Central Catholic's Patrick O'Brien.
Awards: East Lake's Matt Groc was the offensive line MVP. Largo's Mike Douglas was the defensive line MVP. Dunedin linebacker Ali Cheaib was the defensive MVP.