HILLSBORO -- Surprisingly, Saturday's annual Les Schwab Bowl all-star football game turned into a defensive struggle and the South walked away with a 10-7 victory over the North at Hillsboro Stadium.
McMinnville's Wyatt Smith threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Wilsonville's Harrison Steiger in the first quarter, and Grants Pass' Jerin Appling added a 28-yard field goal in the third quarter, and that was enough for the South to run its win streak in the series to three games.
After Clackamas' Jake McGreevy scored for the North on a 2-yard run with 1:15 to play, the South recovered an errant onside kick and then killed the clock in the annual game featuring the state's top Class 6A and 5A graduating seniors.
"I thought our defense played really, really well," said McGreevy, who finished with seven carries for 14 yards. "Our offense didn't execute right away. It took us a while, but we got it going a little at the end of the first half and again late in the second half.
"We just made too many simple mistakes and we were just beating ourselves up all game."
Oregon City's DeQuahn Dennis-Lee, who drew the start at quarterback for the North, thought his team had enough weapons to march up and down the field against the South, but that's not what happened.
In eight first-half possessions, the North ran 27 plays that netted 65 yards and only two first downs.
The only time the North crossed the 50-yard line in the first half was on its second possession of the game, and that drive ended at the South 46 when the North came up 6 yards short on a fourth-and-9 play.
"I was definitely surprised it was that much of a struggle, because our offense had some dogs, some really good guys," Dennis-Lee said. "It was just execution and mental mistakes, like a holding call on a big play or not communicating enough with one another and just letting a defender run free. We did that a lot."
North coach Chris Miller of West Linn counted 12 mental or physical errors that cost his team, none bigger than the lost fumble off a completed pass at the North 21 that set the stage for Smith's touchdown pass to Steiger with 1:41 left in the first quarter.
"When you have only a week to put in an offense, generally the defenses have an edge," Miller said. "Both quarterbacks played well. We tried to not give them too much stuff, but they did a good job.
"The South's defensive line was pretty quick, so we didn't have a whole lot of time in terms of protection. I like how both quarterbacks competed. They scrambled around to make plays, which in these types of games really helps."
If Dennis-Lee could have had one play over, he said it would have been his incomplete pass to West Linn's Justin Altenhofen on third and 15 from the South 36 late in the third quarter.
"That should have been six," said Dennis-Lee, who completed 8 of 14 passes for 78 yards and had nine carries for 13 yards with three sacks. "It was a timing route and I just missed him low."
Clackamas' Michael Vance and Keon Hosseini saw action up front on offense, Vance at left tackle and Hosseini at right guard.
"The South defense was really, really good, with a lot of really fast guys," said Vance, who left the game with a strained knee early in the fourth quarter. "We got the preparation we needed in practice, we just didn't execute as well as we should have in the game.
"The thing about it is, we all understand football really well, which helped us come together as a team. We're all here for a reason, because we know how to play football, so it wasn't that hard to gel."
On defense, Clackamas' Quincy Baker helped anchor the North line, while Oregon City's Tanner Smith started at middle linebacker and was on the field for all 56 plays that the defense faced.
"This is my last game ever, so it was pretty fun being out there," said Tanner Smith, who finished with a game-high nine tackles, including three solo stops. "I thought the game would be a little more high-scoring. I was surprised by a 10-7 final score, but … I love those smash-mouth type of games, so it was cool.
"The whole week was a really fun experience. I really enjoyed bonding with all these guys. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the win today, but I'm really proud of how the defense played."
Baker, the 6-foot-1, 310-pound tackle, praised the North for its teamwork on a day when temperatures climbed into the mid-90s and the on-field temperature topped 100.
"It was definitely hot, but I had fun," said Baker, last season's Mt. Hood Conference defensive player of the year. "We came in here not knowing one another, but now we're as close as brothers. This is definitely an experience I'll remember the rest of my life."
"I played against almost all of these kids and didn't care much for a lot them at one point, but now we're almost like brothers," he said. "It was a great experience -- probably one of the best football experiences I've ever had."
Wyatt Smith, the South quarterback, was named the game's Most Valuable Player after completing 6 of 10 passes for 61 yards and a touchdown.
The North ran 63 plays and gained 229 yards offense to the South's 56 plays for 228 yards.
"We weren't very productive all day, but we still had a chance with an onside kick, so I'm really proud of how the kids competed and how hard they played," Miller said. "Some of them that aren't playing football anymore can feel real good about leaving it all out there on the field."
By Jim Beseda
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