CLEARWATER — In the first quarter, the North team was hit for a few big plays.
But it was undeterred.
Using a steady, balanced attack, the North rallied from an early deficit to beat the South 24-16 in the Pinellas Senior All-Star Classic on Wednesday.
Most of the North's big plays came during the second half.
The first was an interception return for a touchdown by Clearwater's Brenden Leston that gave it its first lead, 17-10. The second came on a touchdown run by Countryside's Diomi Roberts, who darted around the right end and dived in for a score.
Gibbs' Gary Simon had a knack all season for making the big play. He continued to do that Wednesday and was named MVP.
Simon started the scoring by hauling in a 64-yard pass from Pinellas Park's Brandon Hames to give the South a 7-0 lead.
"I already knew that play was coming," Simon said. "The quarterback read it, and I was able to get open and make a play."
Simon also had an interception and 47-yard punt return during the second half. And to think Simon was playing with a bruised shoulder he thought would limit his availability.
"I tried to go as much as I could," Simon said. "I really didn't think I would have that big of a role in the game. I thought I would just play on defense. But I wanted to be out there as much as possible because I love playing."
The South had the luxury of two edge rushers who have orally committed to Division I-A schools. Pinellas Park's Jeremi Powell (Florida) and Lakewood's Dante Fowler (Florida State) played on opposite sides and were counted on to wreak havoc.
Fowler was bothered by a foot injury. So Powell stepped up with four tackles for loss and was named defensive line MVP.
"My goal was to try and get the defensive award," Powell said. "I was trying to compare myself to Dante, and I know he was hurting a little and wasn't 100 percent. I just wanted to go out and help our team."
Clearwater Central Catholic's Devon Garnett was named defensive MVP after recording two interceptions, including the one that set up the go-ahead touchdown for the North. Countryside's Jeff Albert was the offensive line MVP for clearing holes for Roberts and East Lake's Tyler Lane. Tarpon Springs' Dondre Daley was named offensive MVP after catching a team-high four passes.
Tarpon Springs' Louis Pappas and Palm Harbor University's Billy Pavlock split time at quarterback for the North. Pappas threw a touchdown to East Lake's Stephen Buric to tie the score at 7 in the first half.
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Lakewood Coach Cory Moore was named one of 10 assistants for the U.S. under-19 national team. The team, led by coach Steve Specht of Cincinnati St. Xavier, will play Feb. 1 (national signing day) in the International Bowl in Austin, Texas. Moore was the only Floridian selected and will coach linebackers.