Game MVP Jordan Porter and Defensive MVP Gabriel Cordero were teammates last season at Turlock and teamed up again on Saturday night to lead the South to a 24-2 triumph over the North in the 45th annual Lions All-Star Football Game held in Tracy. Despite the final score, it was still anybody’s game with three minutes left.
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It wasn’t just the outcome of the 45th annual Lions All-Star Football Game on Saturday night in Tracy that was decided by a 50-yard fumble return touchdown with 2:49 to go that sparked the South to a 24-2 victory over the North.
The play by senior Jordan Porter, who played last season at Turlock, also ripped up early ballots for all three of the postgame awards that are coordinated by CalHiSports.com (a media sponsor for the event). Before that play, Porter was one of the most impressive players on the field with several outstanding catches playing receiver on offense. Then after it, he became a leading MVP candidate and that position didn’t change in the game’s final two minutes.
Before the fumble return TD, the North had put itself in position for a comeback win by registering a safety with 11:38 left on a sack in the end zone by Tracy’s Oyebolaji Akinyemi and Summerville’s Carson Caya. Trailing 10-2, the North got the ball back after that safety with a chance to score and then get a two-point conversion. The North couldn’t capitilize and then on an ensuing drive the fumble and fumble return took place at midfield.
Porter’s teammate from last season at Turlock, linebacker-running back Gabriel Cordero, appeared to force that fumble and was credited with 10 tackles and one sack. He earlier had also scored the game’s only touchdown on a 12-yard run just before halftime. If there had been no more scoring in the last three minutes of the game, Cordero was on track to be the game’s MVP. Instead, it went to his teammate with Cordero instead grabbing the Defensive MVP plaque.
“It’s really amazing to play in this game and battle with these guys,” Porter said. “It was an amazing bond that we built this week and it was an unforgettable experience.”
Porter’s MVP honor also marked the second straight year that a Turlock High player has earned it. Last year, Bulldogs’ quarterback Danny Velasquez won it for leading the South to a 30-17 win after his team was behind 17-0.
“Danny has been like a brother to me,” Porter said. “We put in a lot of work together and we’ve been training together.”
Cordero still has one more game to play in football as he will suit up in the upcoming Rotary All-Star Game in Merced, but shortly after that he will report for basic training with the U.S. Marine Corps.
“It’s great to have two from our school to play like we did on each side of the ball,” Cordero said. “Playing with him (Porter) has been a blessing. He puts in the work.”
With the win, the South has now won five of the last six games in the series that generally matches schools from the Stockton area and Mother Lode communities (North) against schools from the Modesto area and Merced County (South). The only one of those games the South didn’t win was a tie. The North, however, still leads in the overall series standings 24-19-2.
All six of the South’s 5-0-1 recent games have been played at Wayne Schneider Stadium in Tracy (a North school). Before that, the North was doing better in two games held at Modesto Junior College (in the South). The event had been played every year before that at the now demolished University of Pacific Memorial Stadium.
Irik Dobbins, from Buhach Colony of Atwater, gave the South a 3-0 lead with a 24-yard field goal in the first quarter.
As the second quarter progressed and both teams struggled offensively, it was apparent that head coach Frank Marques of the South would not be involved in another 53-52 contest which was his previous game leading Hilmar High in the CIF Division 6-AA Northern California playoffs. Hilmar lost that game to eventual state champion Strathmore in overtime.
With five minutes left in the first half, head coach Anthony Martinez’s team from the North apparently broke through on an 82-yard touchdown pass from Lincoln of Stockton’s Quinton Gaines (who was Martinez’s quarterback at Lincoln last season) to Bear Creek’s Walter Maymon. That touchdown, however, was called back on an illegal procedure penalty. The South then scored three minutes later on Cordero’s 12-yard run for a 10-0 lead at halftime.
In addition to the two honors won by the Turlock duo, the Lions Game also has an offensive MVP. Since one of the goals with the three awards is to present two of them to the winning team and one to the losing side, that one also flipped around several times during the night and did so again after the 50-yard fumble return.
Before Porter’s play made him a leading candidate, the player from the North with the best chance to get a plaque was Tracy’s Akinyemi, who had two other sacks in addition to the one for the safety, two other tackles for loss plus 10 tackles in all.
After the fumble return, with Porter looking like MVP and Cordero looking like Defensive MVP, the media in the press box looked for a North player who could be Offensive MVP and the vote went to Brookside Christian’s Reuben Lee. He had 70 receiving yards and 30 rushing yards and also made some plays on defense.
In getting the shutout, the South also had several other standouts in addition to Cordero. Octavio Perez of Newman Orestimba, the other linebacker with Cordero, had a game high 12 tackles with two for loss. Patterson’s Kendrick Bond came up with two interceptions while Irik Dobbins of Atwater Buhach Colony had seven tackles, one interception and three other solid pass defense plays on the ball.
QB Antony Caballero (Los Banos) had a 15-yard TD run in the last seconds of the game for the South to finish the scoring while the team’s other QB, Gabe Sanchez (Patterson), had 99 yards passing on nine completions. Another North standout was running back Michael Ramos (Lathrop), who rushed for 82 yards on 10 carries.