High school all-star football games showcase East County talent

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The 26th annual Alex Spanos All-Star Classic is scheduled Jan. 16 at San Diego Mesa College as the state’s longest-running high school football all-star game has elected to undergo a face-lift with a move from July to the winter months.

The game, with a more football-friendly timeline, comes a month after the end of the high school state football championship bowl games and allows plenty of time for coaches to invite the region’s top senior players to compete one last time in front of friends and families.

The 26th annual Alex Spanos All-Star Classic is scheduled Jan. 16 at San Diego Mesa College as the state’s longest-running high school football all-star game has elected to undergo a face-lift with a move from July to the winter months.

The game, with a more football-friendly timeline, comes a month after the end of the high school state football championship bowl games and allows plenty of time for coaches to invite the region’s top senior players to compete one last time in front of friends and families.

The game features a North versus South format and is sponsored by the San Diego Chargers and the High School Sports Association. Bonita Vista High School’s Chris Thompson will serve as the South head coach while Jason Texler of San Marcos High School will serve as the North head coach.

However, the Spanos Classic is not the only post-season high school football all-star game.

The inaugural American Bowl took place Dec. 18 at Otay Ranch High School and showcased a treasure trove of East County student-athletes.

The event was developed in conjunction with the Intercalifornia Youth Athletic Association, and pitted a select group of area standouts – San Diego Stars and Stripes – against the Mexican U19 team. The San Diego team captured what turned into a highly competitive match-up by a score of 27-21.

According to San Diego head coach Derek Dahlen, the game served two purposes: to provide local players with the experience of playing in an all-star game against international competition and to provide a high-level training experience for the Mexico team as it prepares for the upcoming 2016 U19 World Championship in China.

The United States is the defending world champion.

Pre-game festivities included a skydiving exhibition and a ceremonial coin toss by former NFL standout Eric Metcalf. Agina Alvarez, from “The Voice USA” and “La Voz Mexico” sang the national anthems of both the United States and Mexico.

American-style football is said to be the fastest-growing sport in Mexico.

“This was a great experience to share this with our brothers from across the border,” Dahlen said. 

The local team burst out to a 20-0 lead but held on to win by a touchdown.

The San Diego team, which had only four practices to prepare for the game, included several notable East County players on its roster. They included receiver/free safety Nick Sexton, running back Adrian Petty, quarterback David Todd Jeremiah and punter Kyle Thompson from Christian; receiver Khaleed Davis and safety Alex Lilliard from Grossmont; El Capitan middle linebacker Chance Colson; and Mount Miguel center Jordan Butts.

Sexton had 68 catches for 1,389 yards with 13 touchdowns during the 2015 season. He helped lead the Patriots to the City Conference City League championship and a berth in the Division II quarterfinals.

Also for Christian, Petty rushed for 1,171 yards and 13 touchdowns while Jeremiah passed for 2,750 yards and 26 TDs.

Davis had 66 catches for 1,043 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Stars and Stripes

The San Diego team used two fumble recoveries in the first quarter to take a 6-0 lead on a pair of field goals by Carlsbad’s Collin Riccitelli.

Valley Center quarterback Rhett Reilly threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Christian’s Petty with 32 seconds elapsed in the second quarter to boost the hosts to a 13-0 lead.

Grossmont’s Davis then caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Christian’s Jeremiah later in the quarter to extend the Stars and Stripes’ lead to 20-0.

But the Mexican team regrouped at this point and out-scored the Americans 21-7 over the balance of the game.

Team Mexico used a trick halfback pass to carve into the Stars and Stripes lead 4:56 prior to halftime. Hector Alexis Rodriguez caught the 37-yard pass.

Team Mexico came up short on a 46-yard field goal attempt as time expired in the first half.

Eastlake’s Traylon Reed scored on a 37-yard sideline run with 6:06 remaining in the third quarter to extend the Stars and Stripes lead to 27-7.

Team Mexico scored the final two touchdowns of the game. Quarterback Johan Leonel Lopez Guerrero, whose fleet feet and deep passing ability brought the Mexicans back in the game, was named the game’s MVP.

Stars and Stripes managed to run out the clock over the final 3:02 of the game, ending the contest in Team Mexico’s red zone in victory formation.

Reed gained 96 yards on 17 carries to highlight the Americans’ rushing attack.

“With only four practices, we looked a little helter-skelter at times,” Dahlen explained. “I’m proud of this team and proud the kids chose to play in this all-star game among the many all-star games out there. I’m also proud of Mexico. They played hard.”

The San Diego players were proud to participate in the game.

“It was a huge honor,” Christian’s Sexton noted. “It was a culture challenge playing a team like Mexico. It was just different. It’s great I got to be a part of this. Their quarterback had some speed. He was a huge part of their offense.”

The Christian players who participated in the game wore “88” emblazoned on their helmets in tribute to teammate Jason Lyon, who died during the 2015 season.

Sexton said Lyon’s death left an indelible mark on the Patriots this season.

 “The whole season we dedicated to him,” Sexton explained. “It’s a shame we didn’t go farther in CIF.”