Late comeback lifts Under-14 Stripes over Under-14 Stars, 30-19
By: Rudy Klancnik
ARLINGTON, Texas –Peter Zamora connected with Darris Schuett for a 48-yard touchdown with just under three minutes to play and Cooper Hildago followed that with a 46-yard interception return for a score as the U-14 Stripes beat the U-14 Stars, 30-19, at International Bowl VIII at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
A game that was tight throughout turned on a great defensive stand by the Stripes, led by defensive lineman Gavin Portillo. The Sachse, Texas, native had back-to-back pancake tackles in the backfield.
Then when the Stars fumbled the snap on third down, they had no choice but to punt leading by just four points. On the first play of the ensuing possession, Zamora (Coral Springs, Fla.) fired a strike on a quick slant to Schuett (New Glarus, Wis.) who did the rest, weaving his way to the end zone. Zamora connected with Jacob Rider for the two-point conversion to give Stripes a 23-19 lead.
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The Stars worked the ball on their final drive to near midfield but Hildago dashed any hopes at a comeback when he stepped in front of a pass and speeded 46 yards for the exclamation point touchdown.
“What a whirlwind experience this whole week was. It was simply one of the best experiences of my life,” said head coach Scott Taylor from South Hadley, Mass. “The boys came together and really bonded in short order. What an unbelievable experience this was.”
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For Stripes MVP Jacob Rider, the week was about making some great friends.
“I didn’t know most of these guys at the start of the week and now feel like I’ve made some friends I’ll have the rest of my life,” he said.”
Rider certainly made a lasting impression on the Stars. He caught three passes for 117 yards including a 66-yard touchdown to start the scoring. He also helped to shut down Stars receiver Gunner Flanagan. Flanagan was his team’s MVP for his five receptions for 98 yards but was shut down on the final drive.
After turning the ball over on downs on their first possession of the third quarter, the Stripes got the ball right back when a poor snap led to a fumble recovery by Justin Eisele from Lake Hoptatcong, N.J.
From there, Rider put on another show with a tip-drill catch on a pass from Zamora. Cameron Attard, all 92 pounds of him, juked a couple of Stars defenders out of their cleats for 14 yards. Attard then finished off the drive with a 6-yard touchdown. The extra point was missed, which kept the score deadlocked at 13.
The Stars moved the ball nicely on its ensuing drive to midfield but pressure by the Stripes defensive line caused a tipped pass that was intercepted by Dylan Leach, a defensive back from Chino, Calif.
After the U-14 Stripes turned the ball over on down, the Stars mounted another good-looking drive sparked by a nice pass and catch from Nicco Marchiol to Flanagan for 29 yards to the Stripes 15-yard line.
Daniel Brewton of Old Bridge, N.J., made his presence felt throughout the stadium when he made a great tackle on Marchiol at the 5-yard line. On the next play, Ellie Nickelson ran it in from the 5-yard line to give the Stars the 19-13 lead. The Stripes blocked the extra point and Kody Walsh returned it the length of the field for a safety, bringing the crowd to its feet and moving the Stripes two points closer at 19-15.
The first half was filled with big plays, turnovers and some ill-advised penalties as the Stars took a 13-7 lead into the locker room.
It was the Stripes that got on the board first thanks to the explosiveness of Rider, a 5-foot-7, 130-pound receiver from Pinon Hills, Calif. Rider took a quick swing pass from Zamora, juked three defenders nearly to the ground and then outraced the remainder of the Stars to the end zone for a 66-yard score.
The Stars answered quickly on their next possession when quarterback Nicco Marchiol connected with Flanagan for a 31-yard touchdown.
The Stripes came right back after Rider struck again, this time with a 25-yard reception down the left sideline. However, the Stars defense stiffened thanks to some great plays in the secondary and the Stripes turned the ball over on downs.
Rider added to his fine first half of work by recovering a Stars fumble. Helped greatly by back-to-back 15-yard personal foul penalties on the Stars, the Stripes squad was poised to extend its lead with the ball inside the red zone. However, as was the case throughout the first half, the Stars’ defense held and turned the ball over on downs.
That’s when David Tunis, the 5-5, 137-pound dynamo from Plainsboro, N.J., decided to register the highlight of the first half when he dashed 86 yards down the left sideline for a showcase touchdown. The point after by Jai Patel was good and the U-14 Stars led 13-7.
Evan Johnson from Jessup, Md., earned his way into the stat sheet when he recovered a fumble after his teammate Kendrick Sneed Jr. dislodged the football. The Stars looked to add to the lead but on the eighth play of a promising drive. Daniel Brewton intercepted a short pass and the U-14 Stripes ran out the clock to end the first half.