All-Star high school football: D.J. Nelson's late drive propels North
SANDY — Logan's D.J. Nelson doesn't know how to quit. East High — and 13 other schools — found out last fall during the Grizzlies' 4A championship run.
Sione Makoni saw it first-hand. Only Saturday night, he was Nelson's teammate.
Nelson crossed the goal line with just 2.2 seconds left to lift the North squad to a 20-19 victory over the South in the Utah High School Coaches Association Senior All-Star game at Alta High School.
When Bonneville kicker Carson Fackrell boomed the extra point through the uprights, it was the only time the North led the entire game.
"I've known D.J. for three years now. We've played before in Las Vegas tournaments," said Makoni, whose Leopards fell to Logan in last year's championship game. "I have all the confidence in D.J. He's a guy that has a lot of heart."
Statistics were unavailable on the warm, windy evening and Nelson was a little rusty, compared to his high school career where he threw for over 5,000 yards and rushed for almost 2,000 more. He threw two interceptions and was hounded constantly by the South's defense. A fumble recovery by Logan's Johnny Luke near midfield with just under two minutes left gave Nelson another chance.
A combination of Nelson runs and passes moved the ball downfield. At the 2-yard line, the ball was snapped with just under seven seconds left and Nelson threaded the middle of the field. He appeared to be stopped short, but leaned forward and stuck the ball over the goal line, which got the attention of the official.
"Everyone was taking this game seriously," Nelson said. "It's our last high school game and we didn't want to lose it."
The South squad was headed by Lone Peak coach Tony McGeary, while Logan's Mike Favero led the North. The group underwent three two-a-day practices during the week.
"There was a lot of camaraderie and brotherhood on the team," said Nelson. "It was great to play this game again."
There were heroes on both teams. The South was led by wide receiver Rickey Shumway, who caught a pair of touchdown passes from Alta quarterback Tyson Blackner.
Westlake's Addison Bates and Lone Peak's Andrew Schirmer also had some big plays. Bates' 28-yard interception return gave the South a 19-3 lead at one point.
Fackrell played a big part of the North's rally. He averaged nearly 50 yards per punt, taking advantage of the strong south winds, and connected on two field goals, including a 40-yarder against the wind. Surprisingly, Fackrell said he has not received much interest from college teams.
TEAM 3A 18, TEAM 2A/1A 8: In the earlier game, Juan Diego's Cayden Sanchez scored on a fourth-down play late in the game to give the 3A team its first lead and then Heath Vincent of Park City secured the win with an interception that led to a scoring run by Brian Scott.
The 2A/1A team had just 16 players on its roster and many had to play both ways in the hot conditions.
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