It seemed like nobody could stop North running back James Sams in Saturday's North-South Rotary All-Star Football Game the Los Banos graduate ran for 171 yards and three touchdowns in the North's 35-28 overtime loss.
But South cornerback Andrew Hall's Dos Palos team lost twice to Sams' Los Banos in the past two years in the Westside War, one of the longest-standing rivalries in the area, he wasn't going to give up easily when Sams broke off his third touchdown, an 88-yard scamper down the opposite sideline in the third quarter.
Hall sprinted all the way across the field, and was just a few yards behind Sams when they hit the end zone.
"I seen at the last minute that he was running and nobody was running after him, so I tried to do something," Hall said. "I didn't see anybody else trying to finish it, so I tried something."
Sams' touchdown came on his first touch after he coughed up a fumble, giving the South the ball at midfield.
"I've never wanted the ball more than after that fumble," said Sams. "I was mad."
The tide turned in the fourth quarter when the South overcame a 28-14 deficit, with Chowchilla's DeVaughn Gaines and Hoover's Nick Peterson each throwing a touchdown pass to Washington Union's Greg Wilson. Gaines, a shifty Menlo College-bound quarterback who ran 17 times for 85 yards, hit Wilson again in the overtime period from 17 yards out.
Several North shots at the end zone fell incomplete.
Sams scored in the first quarter on a goal-line plunge, barely crossing the line before he was pushed back, and on a 72-yard breakaway in the second quarter.
A few other Los Banos-area players competed for the North LBHS receiver Keith Turner didn't get much thrown his way, but he returned a few kickoffs and punts, Pacheco defensive lineman Luis Zendejas got some game time, and Pacheco safety Jacob Parks spent about a third of the game directing the defense.
"It kind of felt like being quarterback, because safety, you're pretty much directing everybody around, telling them what to do, it just fit right in," said Parks, who played quarterback and safety for Pacheco's in its first two years of varsity play. "It was great. It's a great atmosphere, a lot of great players out here just coming out and playing football."
Turner, Parks and Sams are all headed this fall to Modesto Junior College, where they have been working out with the football team, along with Pacheco's Robert Burkart, Paul Parks and Juan Trujillo and LB's Markus Rico and Dretel Blackwell. Hall said he is headed to Universal Technical Institute. Other players trying to catch on with college teams include Pacheco safety Julian Kelly, who has been accepted to Fresno State is trying to walk on with the football team, and LB's Delvonte Moore, who is working with City College of San Francisco.
Merced Sun-Star reporter Shawn Jansen contributed to this report