INDIANAPOLIS | There were great hits, punishing takedowns and several near misses. But it just wasn't enough in a 13-7 loss.
In Friday night's 45th North-South All-Star game the region had six starters on the defense, which did its job as the North held the South to 125 yards rushing and 122 yards in the air. But three costly turnovers in the first half gave the South 10 points.
That didn't have North coach Mark Hoffman disappointed in Chesterton's Dan Dellumo (DE), Morton's Darius Taylor (DT), Merrillville's Matt Neal (DT), Valparaiso's Adam Peterka (DE), Crown Point's Jordan Jurasevich (LB), or Valpo's Dominic Coatsolonia.
Hoffman also praised Lowell's Jordan Juarez (LB) and Andrean Demetri Blanco (DB).
"I'd take any one of those kids," Hoffman said. "Our front four were all region kids and they did a great job tonight. We just couldn't get anything going on offense. We had too many close calls that we didn't capitalize on."
Neal, Peterka and Jurasevich made four stops and Taylor had three.
Purple helmets: As a long-standing, time-honored tradition during the week of practice, players take their helmet stickers to trade with their new teammates.
But the Merrillville pair wasn't trading or decorating their helmets with those of their new friends.
Morton coach and North assistant Roy Richards said the other players planned to pilfer the purple hats on Thursday to decorate all kinds of emblems on them.
But Denzel Pierce said he wasn't just holding out.
"No, I waited until today," Denzel Pierce said Friday night. "I put them all on today because I didn't want (the stickers) to get dinged up."
Matt Neal also had other school's stickers on his head gear.
The big, grey shirt: Rensselaer's Ben Davisson played left guard in the game, which was different from his usual tackle position. The 6-foot-10, 330-pounder felt like he played a good game but now he has to wait until January to head off to Western Michigan.
It's called a grey-shirt, where Western is bringing in JUCO players for this upcoming season and Davisson will not start the school year until after the new year.
"This was a great eye-opener for the next level," Davisson said. "Playing with guys who are all going to college was tough and it will help me get ready. This was one of the best weeks of football I've ever had."
Crash course: Defense isn't what Valparaiso University recruited Blanco to play, but the Crusaders should know they have a back-up plan available. Blanco was impressive at cornerback, breaking up one pass and nearly picking off a bubble screen that could've gone the distance. He also returned three kickoffs for 40 yards.
"That's says a lot about the coaches," Blanco said. "They got me ready to match up against the best receivers in the state of Indiana and I was able to go toe-to-toe with them. I'd like to have had the picks, but I'd say I was pretty satisfied."
Dude, where's the scoring?: Given the fact that defenses are limited somewhat by the game's rules, players like Jurasevich were surprised there wasn't more scoring.
"We can't blitz. We have to play a 4-4," he said. "It's supposed to be an offensive game.
Wimmer again: The South was coached by former Merrillville coach Rick Wimmer, who led the Pirates from 1988 through 1996. Wimmer's Pirates were 8-1 against Hoffman's Vikings. Hoffman was the North head coach.
Wimmer raised his career record over Hoffman to 9-1 when his Fishers team beat Valpo 30-12 in the Class 5A Northern Semistate last November, before going on to win the state title. With the 13-7 win in the North-South game Wimmer is 10-1 against Hoffman.
"Mark is one of the best in the game," Wimmer said. "He is one of the good guys. He does things the right way and you can tell kids want to play for him."
Region honored: At halftime the Indiana Football Coaches Association handed out plaques for its years of service. Five area coaches walked out for their award and all of them got the 20-year service award. They were Dave Coyle (Valparaiso), Bob James (LaPorte), Robert Ochs (Lake Central), Brian Tomson (Lake Central) and Shane Tucker (Lowell).