Six Metro League stars finish their high school careers in style

HILLSBORO – It would have been better if the score had been closer.

It would have been better, frankly, if the North had just scored.

And it would have been better if it hadn't rained.

But despite of all that, the 2012 Les Schwab Bowl couldn't have been any better for the six Metro League stars who got to play in the annual North-vs.-South all-star contest at Hillsboro Stadium on Saturday night.

Sure, the North team got shut out 21-0 – the first time the usually dominant North had gotten skunked since 1988 – and sure, the Metro stars in the game would have liked to have ended their high school careers with a win, but it was well offset by the fact that they all had such a great time along the way.

"As much of a grind as it was this week – and it was two practices a day – I made some friends that I'll keep all through college and all through my life," said Jesuit linebacker Robert Strys, who made two tackles in the contest and also picked off a South pass. "It was a hell of an experience."

"It's been great. There's just a whole bunch of great players out here trying to have fun and compete," said Sunset guard/center Stephen Hordes, who teamed with Southridge tackle for much of the night on the offensive line for the North. "It was a really fun experience."

"I learned a lot and made a lot of friends," added Aloha defensive back Ryan Russo, who finished with 1.5 tackles and made the North's other interception. "It was a fun experience."

It was fun, yes, but it wasn't very effective, at least not offensively for the North.

The North's longest drive of the night measured just 40 yards over the course of nine plays, and like the team's other 16 possessions, did not result in points. Indeed, it was the North's offensive woes that played the greatest role in the outcome of the game. In total, the North managed just eight first downs, lost 28 yards on 37 rushing attempts, added just 117 yards on its 18 completed passes and finished with just 89 yards in total offense.

"We had a great game. Our offense just wasn't there," said Aloha senior defensive back/receiver Sheldon Prince, who led his team with with four catches for 38 yards. "It was tough."

"I think we had a good game strategy. we just didn't execute," said Hordes, who won his place in the North lineup after Sunset teammate David Fennell chose to skip the contest before starting his college career at Michigan State.

That said, the North's defense was pretty darned good too. While the South finished with 288 yards in total offense, it managed just two Luke Bellotti field goals in the game's first three quarters, and collected 84 of its yards on its two touchdown plays in the fourth quarter.

"It was just a few big plays, but when you're on the field that long, sometimes something happens," Strys said. "Something was bound to happen, but we didn't want it to. We played our hearts out. We did not quit."

Over the course of the game, the North moved into South territory just three times, the best of those chances coming in the latter half of the first quarter when Prince made two catches from Lake Oswego quarterback Alex Matthews for 17 yards, the second of those picking up seven yards to the South 37-yard line.

But Matthews was sacked on third-and-three, then missed on a fourth-down pass attempt to end the North's best scoring chance with 3 minutes, 18 seconds left in the opening quarter.

While the North never made its way to the end zone, that was hardly the end of the highlights for the team's Metro League players. Hordes, often working in concert with Southridge tackle Sean McGill, helped protect their two quarterbacks well enough to allow them to complete 18-of-33 passes for 117 yards in the game. Prince added two more catches, one for 12 yards and the other for nine more, to finish as his team's leading receiver.

Further, Jesuit senior kicker Ryan Cope did his part too, punting nine times for a 41-yard per kick average, and knocking his lone kickoff into the South end zone.

Most of the Metro stars' highlights, however, came on defense.

Russo stopped the South's third possession when he leapt high in the air to intercept a pass thrown by South quarterback Jacob Hollister and gave his team possession at midfield with 5:38 remaining in the first quarter.

Strys did his part at the end of the first half, picking off a Dillon Miller pass at the South 40 and bringing it back 11 yards to stymie the South again at the end of the opening half and keep the score tied at 0-0.

And while the North score stayed at zero, the South's did not.

South kicker Sean Bellotti knuckled home a 28-yard field goal with 9:47 to go in the third period to give his team a 3-0 lead, then wobbled home a 39-yarder on the last play of the period to make it 6-0.

Then, after another aborted offensive possession by the North, the South drove 63 yards in just three plays to score its first touchdown with 12:36 left in the game. On that play, Miller hit Taylor Walcott on the sideline, and when two North defenders bounced off each other trying to make the tackle, Walcott broke free and raced 66 yards to score. Miller then connected with Cody Hollister on the conversion play to make it 14-0.

The North offense went three-and-out on its next possession too, and the South responded with a 70-yard scoring drive that took 10 plays and ate up 5:40 off the clock. The clincher on that drive was an 18-yard Jacob Hollister-to-Walcott pass for the score with 5:45 left in the contest. Bellotti's PAT gave the South its final 21-0 margin of victory.

"Honestly, I thought we had a better team," Russo said. "We just didn't get it done."

"I thought our 'better' was better than theirs, but they came out and did what they wanted to do and we didn't," Hordes added.

None of that lessened the experience, however, for the North's Metro stars.

"We didn't have too many big plays, but it was fun," Prince said. "Not a lot of people get to be on this team."

"We all had our struggles, but we came together and it was fun," Strys added. "It was an opportunity and a memory I'll always have."

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