After drudging through a first half that would’ve rivaled having a root canal, the 10th Annual Tru Sports Foundation Private/Public All Star game, which has established a tradition of exciting plays and dramatic finishes in the short history of the game, transformed into just that when both teams exploded in the second half.
And in the end, it was the Public squad that came up with one more big play when Miramar defensive back Jhaqwori Austin picked off a pass in the end zone with 1:13 left to preserve his team’s 27-20 victory over the private team on Saturday night at Ives Estates Park in North Miami Beach.
The public team, which now leads the series 6-4, can thank a pair of running backs for making the difference. Austin’s teammate, Miramar running back Nate Williams who did most of his damage in the first half, finished with 80 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown.
But the real hero turned out to be Miami Jackson running back Trenod Desrosier. After barely seeing the field in the first half, Desrosier broke loose in the second half touching the ball 12 times to finish with 90 yards and a score and earn the game’s MVP honors.
“I wasn’t sure what was going on but it was just a matter of being patient, waiting my turn and taking off and running with it when I got it,” said Desrosier, who played every offensive skill position this past season at Jackson. “It felt great to be able to contribute.”
“Trenod was a testament to the types of kids who play in this game,” said Dillard head coach Torianno Morgan, who headed up the public team. “He didn’t get the touches in the first half and could’ve easily quit but when he got his number called from the first time he touched it to the last time he touched it he made his time count.”
And no more than in his team’s final drive.
After the private team trimmed the public lead to 21-20 on a spectacular diving catch of a 30-yard touchdown pass by Mater Academy’s John Israel-Cooper on fourth-and-13 with 7:16 left, Desrosier took over the show.
That’s when the public team drove 55 yards in 10 plays and Desrosier carried the ball on all but one play, his nine carries accounting for 43 of the yards and finished it off with a two yard scoring run with 2:45 left.
“It’s all about being a dog and staying focused,” said Desrosier. “They were leaning on me on that drive and that was really cool. I love it when it’s all on me.”
After both teams struggled terribly in the first half, it appeared the public team would take a 2-0 lead into the locker room at halftime thanks to a high snap out of the end zone on a punt by the private team.
But, in what turned out to be a preview of the explosive second half, public quarterback Kevaris Edgecombe of Boyd Anderson, from the private 47 and four seconds left, dropped back and heaved a rainbow pass to the end zone.
On the other end was his own teammate, Everglades’ Kevin Felder who somehow came down the with ball in traffic for a Hail Mary touchdown and 8-0 lead the break.
“I saw the ball coming down and the one thing I like to do in that situation is try don’t go in the pile, take a step back, get behind everybody and wait for the ball,” said Felder. “I just reached up and wrestled it away from everybody.”
The big plays just kept on coming in the second half. Champagnat Catholic linebacker Jahvon Reid broke free and not only sacked Edgecombe in the end zone for what might’ve normally been a safety, but stripped the ball from him and fell on it for a touchdown.
After Williams ran 10 yards for a score late in the third to put the public back up 14-6, the private squad cut it back to 14-12 when, on third-and-22 from the public 10, Columbus quarterback Armando Parra lofted a high pass to the end zone that appeared to be knocked down. But then the ball fell to the ground, it fell right into the chest of Israel-Cooper who was laying on the ground.
The public stars came right back as Edgecombe engineered a seven-play, 60-yard drive before finding Blanche Ely wide receiver James Wallace for a 14-yard score to make it 21-12 with 10:23 left.
“Just a terrific game by both sides,” said Morgan. “It took the first half to feel each other out and I think it was just a matter of settling down and letting the butterflies settle from the excitement of the game. Then they came out in the second half and demonstrated why they were invited to this game.”