HS grads get one last chance at All-Star football games

Six months is a long time to go between football practices.  That was evident during the weekend’s high school All-Star football games.

And the Arizona desert heat in the middle of the summer didn’t help.  The result was lots of turnovers, errors, and penalties.

But the games, put on by the Arizona Football Coaches Association, accomplished their goal.  The fans got a final chance to watch some high school football before these graduated seniors headed off to college.  And the players got one more game to relive their high school careers.

Things settled down in Friday night’s 2A-3A game, as the players got back in the rhythm of things, and the South went on to win, 14-7.

The South’s starting quarterback, Conner Brinton, had some trouble getting on track.  He was intercepted on his first play from scrimmage, but came back later to direct an 88-yard drive and score with a 4-yard run as the first half closed.

Brinton’s play earned the Fountain Hills HS graduate the game’s Most Valuable Player honors.  He’ll be playing for the University of May in North Dakota next season.

Jordan Henslin, a defensive back who was Brinton’s teammate at Fountain Hills, made an interception in the end zone to provide a big lift to the South effort. On the other side, Jake Meixler, who quarterbacked at Blue Ridge HS, provided the only score for the North on a 16-yard TD pass to Robby Martindell from Snowflake HS.

On Saturday night, things got even sloppier in the 4A-5A game, despite there being more scoring.  The North won, 30-14, in a game that had a combined 19 penalties, most of them a result of careless play.

The 4A-5A game gave the impression of teams that hadn’t practiced much together.  Which is generally the case in All-Star games that provide just a week or so of practice to put together some sort of offense and defense.

This game took 3 1/2 hours to play.  In temperatures pushing 100 degrees.

The South got off to a good start, taking a 7-3 lead when Dexter Bethers from Sandra Day O’Connor HS hit Pinnacle’s Alex Zemezonak with a 6-yard TD pass just minutes before the first half ended.

Kevin Pantastico, who was the Desert Ridge HS’s signal-caller, went from goat to hero for the North squad in the course of three quarters.  He was intercepted by Cienega’s Ronnie Burton on the first play and later contributed the game-winning TD in the third quarter by scampering 49 yards for the score.

Linebacker Maka Taufa from Mesquite HS scored on a 23-yard interception run.  But it was Chase Cartwright from Desert Ridge HS who put the game out of reach with a 19-yard touchdown run with just two minutes left to play.

After the dust settled on the Glendale Community College field, game stats showed that North got the lion’s share of the penalties, with 12 flags for 105 yards.  South picked up seven penalties for 75 yards.

Without question, this was one of the more aggressive, competitive high school All-Star games.  But the excessive penalties, taunting, and unsportsmanlike conduct shouldn’t have been a part of it.

That’s not what All-Star games are about.

(File Photo: AZFCA/Cox 7)