Myrtle Beach: The North All-Stars broke a three-game losing streak to the South with a 22-14 win in the 75th Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Bowl in Myrtle Beach. The win is the 40th in the series for the North against 31 losses and 2 ties.
The South took advantage of a pass interception to score first on a 5-yard pass from Tanner Staton to Nate Branch. The North got on the board in the second quarter on a 30-yard Addison Nickles field goal. Later, the North blocked a punt that rolled through the end zone for a safety that made it a 7-5 South lead at the half.
The North took the lead for good in the third quarter with a 10-play drive that ended with a 48-yard Mickles field goal. Early in the fourth quarter, North quarterback Bennett Judy connected with Eli Merck for 35 yards to the South 6. Jaylen Foster carried for 5 yards and then scored from the 1 for a 15-7 lead.
The South responded quickly with a 5 play; 64-yard drive capped by a 38-yard pass from Staton to Jaylin Linder for the touchdown. The extra point made it 15-14 (game rules prevented an attempt for a two-point conversion).
With under two minutes to play, the South had the ball at the North 43, but Staton was picked off by linebacker Evan Javis at the North 44. He returned it to the South 15, and a penalty on the play moved the ball to the 7. Three plays later Bryson James scored from the 2 for a 22-14 lead.
The South had one final possession but that ended on the game’s final play with a sack of Zolten Osborne at the South 35.
The South was expected to lean on a strong running game but was held to 4 rushing yards after 61 yards in losses, including 6 sacks. The North was able to produce a more balanced attack with 158 passing yards and 97 on the ground. Judy was 10-14 thru the air for 140 yards. Eli Merck was his top target with 4 catches for 59 yards. James led the rushing attack with 41 yards.
Staton was 9-13 for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns, but he was also picked off twice. Branch caught 4 passes for 41 yards.
Game MVPs: North offense Bennett Judy, North defense Hunter Puckett; South offense Tanner Staton, South defense Colton Phares.
Scott Earley with North coach Robin Bacon
Scott Earley with South Coach Justin Gentry
At halftime, Camden defensive tackle Xzavier McLeod was named Mr. Football in South Carolina for 2022. He was chosen from a list of seven finalists. McLeod is the third straight defensive player to win the award.