SAN ANTONIO — Clayton Nicholas and Keenon Ward have been on the Texas Tech campus for a while now preparing for their freshman seasons with the Red Raiders.
But Tuesday was a chance for one last shot at high school glory. And if the 78th Texas High School Coaches Association All-Star football game is any indication, the Red Raiders are in good hands.
The soon-to-be teammates helped lead the North team to a 30-16 win against the South in the Alamodome, six days before they start practice in Lubbock.
Nicholas, the quarterback from Abilene Cooper, completed 5 of 6 passes for 59 yards and scored on a 1-yard sneak. Ward, the Snyder standout, accounted for 54 yards of total offense on a reverse and two catches.
“It’s a big deal for any high school player to play in this game,” Nicholas said. “It’s a big part of any high schooler’s dream because it’s a big game for any high school player. I’m just blessed to play in the game.”
It was the final time for Ward to play offense, at least for now, before heading to Tech, where offensive coordinator Neal Brown said last week the plan is to move Ward to cornerback when practices Monday.
“I had to come out and show what I could do on offense,” said Ward, who rushed for 1,769 yards and 23 touchdowns and threw for 780 yards and 11 TDs for the Tigers last season. “Some underestimated what I could do on offense, so I had to show what I could still do with the ball.
“Anytime you get to come out here it’s fun. We had a great group of guys and came out and bonded and really made a team.”
For the South, Tenaha standout Reginald Davis, also headed for Tech, rushed for 11 yards on three carries and caught five passes for 55 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown catch and 2-point conversion catch on the last play of the game.
“We’ve been in (Lubbock) for about two months, now but we’ve got a good feel for each other,” Nicholas said. “We know we can stick together as a team when we get to Lubbock.”
The North was crisp to start the game. The South tried to surprise with a onside kick to start the game and succeeded, but turned it over two plays later on a Treston Coleman fumble at the North 31.
Nicholas then marched the North down the field methodically. His first completion was an 11-yard first-down strike to Ward, and from there the North kept it on the ground.
Nicholas did hit a 32-yard pass to Eric Hawkins of Longview to put the North in scoring position, then punched it in three plays later on first-and-goal with a quarterback keeper, giving the North a 7-0 lead.
After forcing a three-and-out by the South, the North struck quickly, driving 49 yards in four plays capped by a 21-yard touchdown pass from Aledo’s Matt Bishop to Melissa’s Michael Lewis, making it a 14-0 North lead.
The South got to midfield before the North defense stiffened, taking over at the South 42 after a bad punt snap. An 18-yard gain on a reverse by Ward took the ball to the 24, and the North got to the South 5 before two straight sacks of Nicholas by Crosby’s Clayton Callicut forced the North to settle for a 31-yard Nick Jordan field goal and a 17-0 lead with 8:01 left in the half.
“We had so many athletes on this side, it was scary to sit back and watch what other players could do,” Ward said. “It was a privilege to come out here and see all the talent.”
Rex Dausin finally put the South on the board, ending a 55-yard, 13-play drive by hitting Trent Momon in triple coverage in the end zone, sending the game to halftime with the North leading 17-8.
After Nicholas was picked off on his first throw of the second half, the North scored on its next two drives to seal the game, getting a pair of 2-yard touchdown runs from Monahans running back Wayne Onderdonck to push the lead to 30-8 late in the third.
“The North won last year and coach (Steve) Warren at Abilene HIgh coached the team and told me there was some pressure to win the game,” said North coach Hugh Sandifer from Abilene Wylie. “I’m just so proud of the kids. They played as a team, had that spirit and camaraderie it takes to play the game of football.”
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TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL COACHES
ALL-STAR FOOTBALL GAME
in the Alamodome, San Antonio
NORTH 30, SOUTH 16
North 14 3 13 0 — 30
South 0 8 0 8 — 16
NORTH — Clayton Nicholas 1 run (Nick Jordan kick); 4:38
NORTH — Michael Ellis 21 pass from Matt Bishop (Jordan kick); 1:01
NORTH — Jordan 31 FG; 8:01
SOUTH — Trent Momon 15 pass from Rex Dausin (Marcus Price pass from Dausin); :07
NORTH — Wayne Onderdonck 2 run (Jordan kick); 4:13
NORTH — Onderdonck 2 run (Jordan kick); 1:19
SOUTH — Reginald Davis 25 pass from Dakota Prukop (Davis pass from Prukop); :00
First downs 13 11
Rushes-yards 35-90 28-13
Passing yards 135 160
Comp.-att.-int. 12-16-2 16-32-2
Punts-avg. 0-0.0 4-41.0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-1
Penalties-yards 1-15 6-56
RUSHING: North, Aiavion Edwards 9-74, Terrance Brown 4-13, Matt Bishop 5-11, Keenon Ward 1-18; South, Treston Coleman 2-18, Reginald Davis 3-11, Dakota Prukop 8-5, Shiloh Whetsel 6-0.
PASSING: North, Clayton Nicholas 5-6-1—59, Matt Bishop 4-6-1—70; South, Rex Dausin 9-19-2—86, Prukop 7-12-0—74.
RECEIVING: North, Eric Hawkins 3-37, Ward 2-36, Jessie Ramos 2-4, Michael Ellis 1-21; South, Davis 5-55, Trent Momon 3-29, Marcus Price 2-29, Aaron Grubb 2-10.