SANTA MARIA — On Saturday a collection of the top players from each of the football teams in the North County joined forces to take on the all-stars of south county. Yes, that means that Bearcats and Greyhounds worked together in harmony to achieve a common goal, beating south county.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes has put on this all-star game for the past seven years, with the site of the game alternating locations each season. This year, the game took place at Santa Maria High School, in front an absolutely packed house of around 4,000 fans. The stands looked like a field of wildflowers on the Carrizo Plain, bursting with different variations of vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges all mixing together to cheer on their friends and family.
The game acts as one of the single largest fundraisers for each and every team that competes. Each ticket sold goes back to the schools and there is a raffle each year sponsored by the local car dealerships. The raffle donates $20,000 to the winner, for them to put toward a car of their choosing.
This year marked the seventh installment of the all-star game, the first four victories went to south county, but the last two were won by the north. South county quite literally ran away with the game on Saturday, speed being the main difference between the two teams. The speed difference was evident from the kick off, after Logan Armstrong dropped the ball behind the 20, the south county returner and MVP of the all-star game CJ Cole made one man miss and sped down the right sideline for an 83-yard return. Cole played last season for the St. Joseph Knights and has committed to play for Cal Poly next season.
Cole’s speed was a problem for the North County team all evening. He finished the day with 12 carries for 130 yards, 2 receptions for 11 yards and three total touchdowns. South county’s second touchdown came via a 38-yard jet sweep down their own sideline. The speed was evident as North County players could be seen immediately recalibrating their pursuit angles once Manahan broke contain.
Eight Atascadero Greyhound players and four Templeton Eagles competed for the North County. Elijah Cools and Carson Rinkenberger both finished as honorable mentions for North County offensive player of the game, which went to Mission Prep quarterback Bryce Felderman. Other Greyhounds to see actions were: John-Connor Ruggiero, Kian Biro, Lucas Sprouse, Esdrai Jimenez and Riley Mete. Templeton standout running back Nate Avery recorded several carries on the evening, but was never able to break through into the secondary. Colton Anderson, Dylan Prins and Gaston Bryars also suited up for the Eagles in the all-star contest.
The North County offense sputtered its first couple possessions with Felderman calling the shots, and the next quarterback in was Rinkerberger, and he wasted no time feeding his dynamic wide out.
All-star games are always difficult for quarterbacks because they are often times are throwing to receivers they don't have chemistry and timing with. The chemistry and comfort between Cooks and Rinkerberger was obvious to all. Rinkerberger ended the first half with four completions for 42 yards, and perhaps not so coincidentally, Cooks finished with four catches for 42 yards. The Duo did connect on a 28-yard touchdown pass late in the game. Rinkenburger was flushed out of the pocket but was able to keep his eyes downfield and find his guy. Lucas Sprouse played a lot of defense for the North County team and almost recorded a interception at the end of the second half. The south county team tried to run a half back pass, but Sprouse was not fooled. The ball was batted away from Sprouse, by his own teammate, just seconds before he could grab it. The final score of the game was 31-14, Cooks ended the game with seven catches for 106 yards and a touchdown.
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