WALTHAM — Team South beat Team North 20-17 in the 44th edition of the annual Aleppo Shriners All-Star Football Classic at Bentley University, getting some late heroics on Friday night to pull out the win.
The win for the South was spurred by a score from inside the red zone on the 9-yard line, with Rockland High quarterback PJ Celestino pitching the ball off to Foxboro High’s Dylan Gordon for what looked like an outside run.
Instead of taking the ball over the line of scrimmage, Gordon instead pulled up and threw a dart into the back corner of the end zone where Taunton High’s Trent Santos was waiting. Santos pulled the ball down with contesting defenders, helping South take a 20-17 lead and the win with 6:24 left to go in the fourth.
“It was a great night, a lot of fun,” said Team South head coach Jim Artz, who is football coach at Norton High. “Having him being so devastating as a runner and draw so much attention, I knew that he’s going to have a little bigger window to complete a pass than a quarterback. He sold the run for a couple steps and threw a pass to Santos who was wide open.
In a game format where a blitz is not allowed, the play call was perfect.
“I think calling a game is sensing a moment when to do something,” Artz said. “I knew we wanted to score. They can’t blitz, so if they read pass everyone’s dropping. If they read ‘run’, everyone’s stepping up. ... That gave me the thought, knowing the situation. I sensed it was the right moment (for the play).”
A 41-yard field goal attempt with under a minute to go was missed by North, sealing the game. North led by 10 points at the half, with the biggest play coming from Everett’s JC Clerveaux in an 80-yard TD scramble on North’s first play of the game.
Shaan Rana of Billerica hit a 47-yard field goal to make it a two-score game entering halftime.
“Right away, I didn’t want to make it a shootout with them,” Artz said. “They take take the ball 80 yards on the first play, and I go, ‘We’ve got to keep the ball away from them.’ We changed the game plan a little bit, we didn’t really go to that pass because we wanted to really possess the ball and keep it away from them.”
South’s answer came in the second half on a 1-yard score by North Attleboro’s Tyler DeMattio after a 43-yard Santos reception. The South then got an interception from King Philip’s Crawford Cantave that nearly went for six, and DeMattio was again there for the score as he brought it in from two yards out to make it a 14-10 game.
A 42-yard receiving reception by Wayland’s Adam Goodfellow put North back on top, 17-14, before the eventual go-ahead touchdown.
Thirteen area athletes played in the game for Team South. Tyler DeMattio, Tyler Bannon and Jared Vacher represented North Attleboro, Dylan Gordon and Rashaad Way represented Foxboro, Mark DeGirolamo and Braeden Veno represented Mansfield, Hunter Hastings and Crawford Cantave represented King Philip, Nathan Tripolone, Anthony Tripolone and JD Artz represented Norton and Caleb Newman represented Dighton-Rehoboth.
To have his own players represented, and a number of area teams playing well, Artz was pleased with the performance from all involved considering the limited practice availability as well as some players being involved in postseason for sports.
“They all had such a great showing for themselves and it was a great night for (Nathan Tripolone, Anthony Tripolone and JD Artz),” Artz said. “Seeing the kids rise to the challenge was great. It was a lot of fun, really special. The competitive spirit comes out every time. There were a lot of talented players there.”