OSHKOSH — The lone touchdown drive during Saturday night’s Wisconsin Football Coaches Association large-school All-Star game went about as one would expect after watching the 19 possessions before it.
In a 10-0 victory at Titan Stadium, the South All-Stars ground out a 10-play, 68-yard drive that included two third-down conversions and was capped by a 3-yard plunge from Brookfield East back Sam Santiago-Lloyd.
This was anything but your typical flashy all-star contest.
“There was a lot of hard work put into it,” Santiago-Lloyd said. “Nothing comes easy. It means a lot to score in a game like this with the best of the best.”
Santiago-Lloyd’s score came with 31 seconds left in the third quarter, and it was the final play before the game was canceled due to lightning.
South quarterbacks Ben Nienhuis and Brennan Denmark completed just 9 of 24 passes for 56 yards and three interceptions, and the winning team only managed 174 total yards in the three-quarter game.
The road was even more difficult for the North offense, which finished with 74 total yards.
University of Wisconsin walk-on and former Delavan-Darien linebacker Ethan Cesarz led the way for the South, tying for a team high with four tackles, including two for loss. He also stopped the North’s only scoring chance when he blocked a 24-yard field goal to end the first half.
Another Badgers walk-on, kicker Collin Larsh, connected on a 21-yard field goal with 3:03 remaining in the first quarter. The South’s next six possessions ended in three interceptions and three punts before finally finding the end zone.
“We definitely never lost our confidence,” Santiago-Lloyd said. “We knew that if we kept pushing and doing the small things, everything would come together and we would finally capitalize.”
Luxemburg-Casco running back Jon Deprey was a bright spot for the North offense, rushing for 31 yards on seven carries, while Kimberly linebacker Tyler Staerkel finished with five tackles and a sack.
Quarterback Josh Weiss and wide receiver Reid Hilbelink weren’t typical all-star teammates when helping the South Small All-Stars to a 25-20 victory over the North earlier in the day.
While most on the field had only known each other for a week, Weiss and Hilbelink, first cousins and teammates at Cedar Grove-Belgium High, put their lifetime of practice to the test against the state’s best and connected seven times for 128 yards and a score in the South’s win.
“We’ve been playing pitch and catch for 18 years,” Weiss said. “It’s pretty special. This was pretty much our last hurrah before we go our separate ways.”
Weiss completed 15 of 20 passes for 214 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. His second scoring toss to Ryan Wickman from 8 yards out with 9:58 remaining was the winner and marked the finishing touch to a 14-point comeback. The South trailed 20-6 late in the third quarter.
The South stopped the North inches short on fourth-and-1 from the North’s 41 with 6:34 left to preserve the win.
Siren’s Brady Mangen rushed for 170 yards and three touchdowns as the North Eight-Man All-Stars defeated the South 32-20 in the day’s earliest game.
Mangen was a workhorse on the ground for the North, rushing 30 times. He scored two first-quarter touchdowns to give his team a 16-0 lead and added another in the fourth to put the game away at 32-14 with 9:49 remaining.
The North only passed five times on the day, but it didn’t need to air it out with Jordan Siebert (10 carries, 69 yards) and Jase Kuffel (3 carries, 61 yards) also picking up big chunks on the ground.
Wisconsin Heights quarterback Tyler Flamme completed 7 of 13 passes with 139 yards and two total touchdowns for the South, including a 46-yard scoring toss to Abundant Life’s Justin Schmiesing in the second quarter. Schmiesing finished with 113 yards on six catches, while Wisconsin Heights’ Tylan Parman had a game-high 17 tackles (one for loss) and an interception.