CLEARWATER — A stacked North squad featuring a trio of quarterbacks who threw for almost 7,000 yards this season struggled against a staunch South defense, but produced enough for a 17-0 victory in the 25th edition of the Pinellas County All-Star Classic on Wednesday night at Clearwater High School.
The victory marked the North’s 13th in the past 15 meetings.
A biting westerly wind wreaked havoc with the North early and knocked down a pair of punts in the first quarter, giving the South prime starting positions at the 14- and 25-yard lines respectively. However, the visitors were missing some key weapons like dual-threat quarterbacks Greg Spann II from Lakewood and Canterbury’s Keshawn Fuller, Lakewood wideout T.J. Tampa as well as standout Pinellas Park running back Lawrance Toafili. And the absence showed.
As a result, East Lake's Josh Dupree stuffed a South running back for a loss on fourth down followed by a diving interception from defensive MVP Damon Byrnes-Mitchell of Countryside, one of three turnovers forced by the North on the night.
The North scored the only points it would need in the second quarter when Clearwater quarterback Rent Montie hit Calvary Christian’s Shelton Quarles Jr. on a 42-yard catch-and-run.
Tarpon Springs kicker Alexander Wilson added a 38-yard second-quarter field goal while the North wrapped its scoring in the third when East Lake’s Matt Trotto found teammate Rayshaun Williams in the back of the end zone for a 12-yard TD toss.
Clearwater defensive back Chendrick Cann was playing Wednesday for more than the love of the game. He was playing for his future.
“I feel I’m underlooked,” Cann said after a performance that earned him overall MVP honors. “I only have one offer from (Division II) Warner University, so hopefully this gets it going.”
The “this” Cann talked about was a stellar two-interception effort, a leaping grab in the South end zone late in the first half and an aggressive grab over a South receiver early in the third quarter that set up the North’s final touchdown.
“I’ve got the Blue-Grey All-American Game coming up at Raymond James (in January), I’ve been talking to a few schools and sending film to a lot of different schools. I love football so much so I just want to make the best of it. You never know when it’ll be your last time on the field.”
Tornadoes quarterback Montie was all smiles after the North victory, his final game on a field where he made so much history.
“It's been a helluva ride,” said the senior after a school-record 2,400-yard, 25-touchdown 2019. “I love this field. Obviously, I have a ton of memories and it was great to come out and have a good time to finish it up.”
The lone regret: “I'm kind of bummed that I didn't get it to (teammate) Keedrik (Murray for a touchdown), but other than that I had a good time.”
Montie hit on two passes for 52 yards while Calvary’s Harold Cook connected on 8 of 12 passes for 100 yards, and Trotto was 2 of 5 for 23 yards and his TD.
No Quarles with his effort
As a resident of Hillsborough County, Calvary receiver Quarles made a lot of new friends during the week’s practices leading up to Wednesday night.
“Probably just getting to know everybody was the best part of the week,” the senior said. “Sitting in the locker room talking game plans, going out to eat … I like learning and I try to get a piece of knowledge from every single person I talked to on this team.”
On top of that, Quarles not only scored a touchdown but had catches on three consecutive plays on the next possession for 38 yards to set up the North’s field goal.
“I’ll definitely just keep on grinding,” Quarles said of his upcoming offseason. “Just keep working and not be satisfied.”
As a result of their outstanding efforts, Tanner Coad of Admiral Farragut was named best offensive lineman and CCC’s Kayson Romaelle best defensive lineman.