“It’s all about having fun and also competing,” said South tight end Nick Vannett, a future Ohio State player who prepped at Westerville Central. “That’s what we did and we got the ‘W’ so I couldn’t be happier right now.”
Future Buckeye and Massillon Washington wide receiver Devin Smith caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from Walsh Jesuit quarterback Connor Cook (a Michigan State signeed) to tie the score at seven late in the first quarter, but South controlled most of the action at Ohio Stadium.
Cincinnati Colerain tailback Tyler Williams (Akron signee) broke the tie with a 6-yard touchdown run with 2:20 left in the second quarter and Westerville South tailback Jayshon Jackson added a 25-yard TD scamper in the third quarter.
After his score, Jackson then threw to Vannett for a two-point conversion.
“We designed that where Jayshon was going to get the ball and roll out and I was going to come across the middle with a drag,” Vannett said. “He found me and I just made the play.
“It felt great,” he said of scoring points at his future home stadium. “There’s not that many people here, but it’s still scoring. Not that many people can say they scored at Ohio Stadium so it meant a lot.”
The South entered the game with more Division I-FBS signees (25 to 18) and more players headed to BCS conference members (10-9), but many felt the North would emerge victorious thanks to the presence of four Buckeyes-to-be: Smith, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary cornerback Doran Grant and defensive linemen Chase Farris of Elyria and Steve Miller of Canton McKinley.
The three defensive players did not do much of note, however, as they struggled to deal with the confines of rules that required a 5-2 defensive front and no blitzing or stunts.
Farris played most of the game in a four-point stance head up on an offensive tackle while Miller began the afternoon in a stand-up end position but later switched to tackle.
“It’s definitely tough,” Farris said. “It’s really frustrating because you’re not in the position that you normally would play or getting the looks you normally would get so it’s really tough.
“We tried to switch around, but every time we’d go inside, they’d run outside so they dodged us a lot.”
“It was amazing to get the experience of playing the opposite end with him, but I’m pretty sure if we could get in a 4-3 or something it would have been way more effective.”
Although not many passes were thrown his way, Smith was all smiles when asked if he was proud about getting to show his future fans what he can do after he outran Northwestern signee Nick VanHoose of St. Paris Graham for his touchdown catch.
“Knowing that I’m playing here the next four or five years, it feels great,” he said after totaling 63 yards on three grabs. “Scoring a touchdown was what I wanted to do and having the only one was real good. I’m going to remember it forever.”
For Vannett, who had one catch for 16 yards, the weekend amounted to a delightful double: Not only did he get to spend time with his future teammates, he also got to walk out a winner.
“Everyone said we were coming in here as underdogs but it felt great,” the tight end said. “We worked together, grinded it out and got the ‘W’ so it means a lot for the South squad.”
The South won for the second consecutive season but still trails the nation’s longest-running high school football all-star game series 25-38-3.
The South leads 6-5 since the game returned to Columbus in 2001.
Williams was named most valuable player of the game while Smith took home North offensive player of the game honors.