SAN JOSE -- Turns out there is plenty of interest in a high school football all-star game in the middle of basketball season.
The stands at San Jose City College were close to full Saturday night for the first Northern California Literacy All-Star Classic.
As for the game, it was a competitive mismatch, as the North all-stars, comprised of players from San Jose on northward through Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, dominated in a 42-7 victory.
The south all-star roster included players from the south end of the Central Coast Section north through Morgan Hill.
And while there was sloppy play, as well as glitches, such as a nonfunctioning scoreboard, there was a lot more effort put out than is likely to be seen in Sunday's Pro Bowl. A number of players viewed it as an opportunity to audition for college recruiters. Zack Kazakoff, who played quarterback in a running offense at Serra, completed 5 of 5 passes for 166 yards with three touchdowns.
"It was a good chance to show something I didn't get to show that much at Serra,'' Kazakoff said. "I'd love to continue to play, but I don't know where.'' Dominic Barnes, a running back from Pioneer, caught two of Kazakoff's touchdown passes, one of 80 yards and one of 56 yards.
"He's a great athlete,'' Kazakoff said. "It was nice to have someone to throw to who could go up and get it.'' Homestead's Joseph Ilaoa got the North off to a good start with a blocked punt. The South received the opening kickoff, went three-and-out, and had its punt blocked by Ilaoa, who made the recovery at the 4-yard line. That set up Nick Bernardo's 5-yard TD run. The PAT by Burlingame's Chris Graham gave the North a 7-0 lead. Independence running back JoJo Valenzuela appeared to have the biggest rooting section, a contingent of fans wearing Team Jo Jo #20 T-shirts.
When Valenzuela got his first carry -- a 7-yard run for a first down that set up the second North touchdown -- his rooting section erupted. After Valenzuela's first down, North coach Mike Machado of Valley Christian brought in Vita Vea -- listed at 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds in the all-star game program -- at running back, and the South defense found Vea as difficult to bring down as Milpitas' opponents did during the regular season. Vea scored on a 7-yard run. The North defense stood out, limiting the South to 91 yards on 31 plays in the first half. Defensive backs Khari Vanderbilt of Independence, Kyle Kevorkian of Los Gatos and Barnes distinguished themselves with some well-timed hits to break up passes. With the North leading 14-0, the South went for its on a fourth-and-1 from the North 19. Serra linebacker Peter Tuipulotu stopped the ball carrier for no gain and the North took over. On the next play Kazakoff hit Barnes with the 80-yard touchdown pass. The North's final score came on an 11-yard pass from Kazakoff to Wilcox's Roland Luke.
"I thought the kids did a great job coming together,'' Machado said. "It was a chance for kids from different schools and different leagues to come together and unite for two weeks. I love these guys. We molded as a team.'' Vea, Ilaoa and Corbin Jackson combined to give Machado a Gatorade shower at the end of the game.
For more on high school sports, see the After School blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/highschools. Contact Glenn Reeves at 650-348-4345 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/GReeves23.