The North rallied with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to win the 67th annual North-South Classic on Friday evening in Columbus.
The South squad took an early 7-0 lead on a 10-yard pass from Lima Central Catholic’s Tyler O’Connor to Jalen Robinette of Bexley, but Anthony Melchiori of Aurora pulled the North within one with a touchdown catch from Jeff Clegg of Berlin Center Western Reserve.
It stayed 7-6 heading to the half because of a missed point-after try, and the South extended it back to a four-point lead with a 27-yard field goal by Brad Miller of Germantown Valley View with 6:02 remaining in the third quarter.
The North seized control of the game early in the fourth quarter when Devin Campbell of Youngstown Boardman took a handoff and burst through a hole over right guard. Steubenville defensive back Najee Murray, one of three Ohio State signees in the game, had a shot to bring him down but missed as Campbell cut back. Then it was off to the races, and the Buffalo signee would not be caught. Officially the play covered 88 yards and gave the North a 13-10 lead after Steven Smith of Tiffin Calvert made the PAT with 10:14 left to play.
“I was really disappointed,” Murray said. “I gave up you might as well say the game-winning touchdown and let the team down. Knowing that we were better than this team makes it much worse.”
The North added an insurance touchdown when Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary quarterback Kevin Besser hit Quincy Jones of Lakewood St. Edward for a 21-yard touchdown pass on which Jones made a tremendous catch while falling backwards in the corner of the end zone. Cleveland Glenville’s Willie Henry added two points on a conversion run to give the North a 21-10 advantage with 2:47 to go. Henry will suit up for Michigan this fall while O'Connor is headed to Michigan State.
O’Connor hooked up with Armani Miller of Huber Heights Wayne on a touchdown about a minute and a half later, but that was as close as the South would get as the ensuing onside kick went out of bounds.
Melchiori caught three passes for 33 yards and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Akron Hoban defensive lineman Greg McMullen, a Nebraska signee, was named North Defensive Player of the Game while Jones (headed to Eastern Michigan) took home Offensive Player of the Game for that squad.
Columbus DeSales tailback Warren Ball, another Ohio State signee, caught five passes for 46 yards and ran three times for seven. He was named South Offensive Player of the Game. The South’s Defensive Player of the Game was Cincinnati Colerain product Andre Jones, who had a pair of interceptions. Jones is headed to the hometown Bearcats.
The third Ohio State signee – Glenville defensive back Devan Bogard – had an interception for the North squad.
The North broke a two-game losing streak in the nation’s longest running football all-star game and improved to 39-25-3 all time.
The series is tied 6-6 since returning to Columbus.