For the second consecutive year the Bernard Blackwell Classic proved that no lead is safe.
One year after the North rallied to win with a 19-point fourth quarter, the South pulled off a similar feat.
Led by South offensive MVP Tyquan Ulmer of Laurel, the home team scored 21 points in the fourth quarter Saturday to up-end the North 21-14 at Gulfport’s Milner Stadium.
“We were doing some good things in the first half, we just couldn’t get ‘The Play.’ We were very close to having some success,” said South coach Todd Breland of Laurel. “When we scored the first touchdown I think their juices got going a little bit and they just kind of fed off of one another.”
Trailing 14-0 in the 68th edition of the state’s North/South showcase, the South broke the shutout early in the fourth quarter on a 20-yard touchdown pass from St. Martin’s Wayne Overman III to Ulmer.
“I was begging for it all game. I told him I was hungry, so feed me — and he did,” Ulmer said.
After Union’s Qui’Darian Jackson recorded a fumble near midfield on the North’s next possession, the South struck again.
Set up by a 36-yard pass from Hattiesburg’s Julian Conner to St. Martin’s Kalem Reddix, Wayne County’s Chris Cooley recovered a fumble in the end zone two plays later to tie the game, 14-14.
With the North reeling, the South capitalized.
Meridian’s D’Angelo Anderson picked off the North on the visitor’s next possession and returned the interception all the way to the 23. Following a short run and an incompletion, Ulmer came up big again. Usually Laurel’s quarterback, Ulmer lined up at running back, took a pitch from Overman around the right side and pulled up before connecting with St. Stanislaus receiver Corbin Blanchard. Although the Rockachaw was double covered and quickly running out of room, he caught the 19-yard pass before tumbling out of the back of the end zone with 4:29 remaining.
“(Overman) handed me the ball and I just bombed it,” Ulmer said. “I ain’t see nothing but money. I saw him wide open in the end zone so I had to put it in there for him. He was calling for it. I knew he caught it.”
Blanchard wasn’t as confident, holding his breath until the referee signaled touchdown.
“I ran a stutter route. The corner bit up a little bit and Tyquan just threw a really good ball in the back of the end zone,” Blanchard said. “I looked at the referee. I didn’t know for sure, but it was awesome when he put his hands up.”
Madison Central quarterback Jack Walker had a big role in the North’s early lead. The Florida Atlantic commit connected with Senatobia’s Travis Tucker in the first quarter for a 25-yard touchdown and then burrowed his way into the end zone from 1 yard out in the second half to put the North ahead 14-0.
“It’s tough on the quarterbacks in games like this to learn the offense and execute but I think they both played well,” North coach Brad Embry (Water Valley) said of Walker and Hernando quarterback Robert Wilcke, who completed 6 of 22 passes combined for 86 yards. “When you only have two days to prepare the game it’s about big plays. It’s hard to drive the ball and be consistent, so trick plays are a big part of the game.”
The game was filled with plenty of misdirection and surprises. The South opened the game with Petal’s Detric Carter pouncing on an onside kick. The South then attempted a flea flicker on its very first play from scrimmage only to be snuffed out for an 11-yard loss.
Early in the second half, the North’s Tre Truly (Charleston) raced around from his receiver position, took a pitch and connected with Tucker 32 yards down field to help set up Walker’s rushing touchdown.
Two more receiver reverses were executed for minimal gains.
“I knew they were going to fire me when the game was over anyway,” Breland joked about the early onside kick. “I just decided (Friday) night to do the onside kick and flea flicker. When we picked this roster, we tried to pick the best athletes we could fine. We have six kids who played quarterback on their high school teams.
“We talked to the kids about sharing the spotlight because they’re all superstars, but at the same time we had to find ways to get the ball into the playmakers’ hands.”
Quentin Euell (Madison Central), Justin Gammage (Raleigh), Gus Nave (Kemper County) and Anderson all came down with interceptions in the game.
Carter and Lake Cormorant’s Brandon Smith earned the Bill Stewart Award for their respective teams. Jackson and Clarksdale’s Cordarrius Bailey were named defensive MVPS, while Ulmer and Tucker were named offensive MVPs.
The Coast was represented in the game by: Reddix, D.J. Polk (D’Iberville), OvermanLaRaymond Spivery (George County), Blanchard, Reginald Hunter (Pascagoula), Brandon Smith (Ocean Springs), Matt Inlow (Pascagoula), Noah Vance (Harrison Central), Nicholas Dunomes (Gulfport), Justin Scott (Gautier), Mason Hunt (Stone) and Dennis Stevenson (Gulfport). Long Beach’s Forrest Williams and Gulfport’s Eddie Pierce were on the coaching staff.