CHARLESTON — Perhaps it was fitting that on a night when defense and foul weather ruled, the game’s only score came on a fluke play.
Jake Martin caught a tipped pass from Justin Cogar for a 5-yard touchdown late in the third quarter Saturday night and the South made it stand up for a 7-0 victory in the 62nd WCHS 8 Fox 11 North-South All-Star Classic at Laidley Field.
The South extended its all-time lead in the series to 40-19-3, and recorded the game’s first shutout since a 22-0 South victory in 2009.
The North managed just 108 yards of total offense and turned the ball over six times, including five lost fumbles on a field slickened by a gusty downpour that started an hour before kickoff.
“Like they say, defense wins games,’’ said South linebacker Terron Robinson of South Charleston, who had two of his team’s six takeaways. “It’s the most important part of the game. No defense, no win.’’
Fittingly, the MVPs for either side were defensive ends — Noah Hancock of Woodrow Wilson for the South, who had a key fourth-quarter sack and one of his team’s five fumble recoveries, and Max Chefren of Parkersburg for the North, who had three tackles for loss.
No individual player managed even 60 yards rushing, passing or receiving in the game, as rain made a mess of things right from the outset and continued until the third quarter.
The first half ended in a scoreless draw; however, each side missed some solid scoring chances in the wet and windy conditions.
In the first quarter, the North fumbled the ball away on second downs at the South 6- and 3-yard lines, respectively. Then in the second quarter, the South ran out of downs on consecutive drives that reached the North 16 and 10.
In fact, the North’s first six drives resulted in five turnovers and a three-and-out as it gained just 60 yards on 24 plays. The South, however, didn’t do all that much better with 111 net yards, a lost fumble and five penalties for 61 yards.
Here’s how bad it was: One of the South’s best plays in the first half was a muffed punt in the final minute.
After a Jacob Gordon 54-yard punt backed up the North to its own 1, the South forced a return punt that bounced off its return man’s leg and skidded upfield 9 yards, where the South covered it at the North 32. But even that fortunate roll didn’t pay off, as a Cogar pass from the 17 into the end zone fell incomplete as the half ended.
Still, the South had only three first-half plays longer than that 9-yard gain on a muff.
The South finally pieced together a scoring drive on its second possession of the second half, moving 46 yards in 11 plays.
A tackle for no gain by Robison on third-and-3 for the North forced a punt, which shanked out of bounds after going just 15 yards.
Cogar, the Westside standout, converted one third-and-10 with a 10-yard run, but later faced fourth-and-1 from the North 5. He rolled right and tried to hit Cabell Midland running back Alex Childers at the goal line, but the ball was deflected into the end zone, where Ripley’s Martin made a tumbling catch in traffic for the touchdown with 3:17 left in the third quarter.
“It’s a rollout pass,’’ Cogar said, “and it didn’t go where I expected it to go. I was throwing to Alex Childers, and we’ve been working on it all week, with everybody staying around the ball and just being aware. Jake Martin made an awesome play being alert, and went and made a good play on the ball. I’m thankful.’’
The North had two more opportunities to catch up after that.
A fumble recovery by Robert C. Byrd’s Justin Noble allowed the North to set up at the South 38 late in the third quarter. But on fourth-and-2 from the 30, Hancock sacked Weir quarterback William Larch for a 10-yard loss on the initial play of the fourth quarter.
The South tried to run out the clock midway through the final period, and faced fourth-and-5 at midfield. Ravenswood quarterback Rhys Jelich, who saw spot duty at running back Saturday, tried a trick-play pass to get the first down but it landed incomplete with 2:40 remaining in the game.
On its final drive, the North got an 18-yard connection from Larch to RCB’s Alex Banko, but on second down from the 32, Deonte Glover of Musselman was stripped of the ball and Marquis Frazier of Greenbrier West fell on it for the South.
Even with players like Kennedy Award winner Kashuan Haley of Capital and Midland’s electric Childers, the South managed only 234 total yards and 12 first downs. Childers finished with 59 yards on 14 carries, Haley with 48 yards on 15 attempts and Cogar 41 yards on eight rushes.
“We could stop the run game,’’ the North’s Chefren said, “we just had troubles. It was so slick out. The defense had trouble getting traction, the offense had trouble getting traction. It was anyone’s ballgame. We had a couple bad breaks and fumbles. I think we were the true winners in the game.’’
Glover (14 carries, 42 yards) led the offensive effort for the North, which had 83 yards rushing on 36 carries and was 3 of 9 passing for 25 yards.
Besides his big third-quarter stop, the South’s Robison had a fumble recovery and an interception.
“We loaded up three [linebackers] in the box,’’ Robison said, “so whenever they tried to run that counter back towards the middle, we were all there. And when they went out to the corners, that’s some pretty good corners, and they locked that down for us.’’
North-South All-Star Classic
At Laidley Field
North 0 0 0 0 —0
South 0 0 7 0 —7
S — Jake Martin 5 pass from Justin Cogar (Jacob Gordon kick), 3:17
First downs 7 12
Rushes-yards 36-83 49-192
Passing yards 25 42
Passes 3-9 4-18
Had intercepted 1 1
Fumbles-lost 6-5 4-2
Penalties-yards 2-10 7-75
Punts-average 5-31.4 4-28.3
Rushing — North: Glover 14-42, Larch 7-18, Blackston 10-17, Watson 4-4, Vucelik 1-2; South: Childers 14-59, Haley 15-48, Cogar 8-41, Ferguson 3-30, Martin 4-18, Jelich 2-5, Team 3-minus-9
Passing — North: Larch 3-9-1-25; South: Cogar 2-10-0-20, Kinney 1-1-0-13, Ferguson 1-6-1-9, Jelich 0-1-0-0
Receiving — North: Blackston 2-7, Banko 1-18; South: Martin 2-20, Ferguson 1-13, Kinney 1-9
Kickoff returns — North: Glover 2-45; South: Haley 1-16
Punt returns — North: Glover 1-1; South: Haley 1-minus-1
Interception returns — North: Banko 1-0; South: Robison 1-5
Fumble returns — North: Chefren 1-0, Noble 1-0; South: Hancock 1-0, Elkins 1-0, Jelich 1-0, Robison 1-0, Frazier 1-0
QB sacks — North: Heck 1-2: South: Hancock 1-10: South: Hancock 1-10
Att — 500 (est.)