By Chelsea Bissell, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr Public Affairs November 13, 2012
VILSECK, Germany -- It was a classic showdown of strength versus speed during the DoDDS-Europe All Star Football Game, here, Nov. 10.
The North team, which included schools from Ramstein, Baumholder, Bitburg and England, was all brawn. Two of their linemen loomed at 6 foot, 7 inches and 6 foot, 4 inches, and weighed in at 325 and 310 pounds, respectively.
"We have some pretty special kids, size wise, and the thing that makes them special is that they can move," said Matthew Martinez, the North team defensive coach from Lakenheath, England. "These kids are agile."
The South team -- Italy, Ansbach, Hohenfels and Vilseck -- had speed on their side.
"We have the four fastest kids in Europe," said Jim Hall, South team's assistant head coach and special teams coordinator.
In the end, speed triumphed over size as the South defeated the North 29-10.
Though they eventually owned the field, the South started the game on rocky footing. After a failed first down during their first possession, the South fumbled and lost the ball during their second chance on offense.
At this point, the North had already kicked a field goal, landing the first points of the game and setting the score at 3-0.
With only two minutes left in the first quarter, the South finally found their stride and Isaiah Wesby, a wide receiver from Naples, Italy, scored the game's first touchdown on a 42-yard pass play. During the North's next possession, Blade Strauss, a corner from Vilseck, intercepted a pass near the 30-yard line, blowing past three North players before getting stopped.
The momentum mounted. On the next play, South quarterback Joseph Pitts from Aviano, Italy, ran the ball on the outside, scoring his team its second touchdown in five minutes.
The first half ended with the South in the lead, 14-3.
The South's yard-gaining vigor was matched in the second half. They countered the North's sizable defense by going around them. The South relied on their speed to keep running backs and receivers on the perimeters of the field and away from the North's strong center.
"That was our strategy," said Hall, "to just get them on the outside."
By keeping to the outside and upping their passing game, the South quickly gained yards in the third quarter, and Jack Sly, a senior from Bristol, nailed a touchdown during the first possession, widening the lead at 21-3.
The North scrambled to find the confidence and cohesion they displayed in the first quarter and succeeded in the third with a touchdown by Ramstein senior quarterback Dylan Le Page, who popped the ball just inside the end zone before getting tackled.
But it was Carlton Campbell, a senior from Vilseck, who dominated the fourth quarter. With a back-to- back run of 19 and 21 yards, Campbell scored the game's final touchdown for the South, putting the score at 27-10.
In a trick play for the two-point conversion, lineman Armando Saldana of Vilseck carried the ball into the end zone, making it 29-10.
For Campbell, blowing past the North's defense was the highlight of his last touchdown in his high school career.
"I was breaking tackles," he said.
"That means they tried to stop him but they couldn't succeed because he's nasty," Strauss clarified.
Though spirited and hard-fought, the All Star game is a venue to show off the talents of Europe's best high school football players. For the athletes and coaches alike, the focus was on fun and camaraderie, rather than winning.
"Instantly, the chemistry has built basically a family on the team," said Bryson Randall, a North team linebacker from Bitburg, Germany.
The coaches from both teams intended to unify their players and take the pressure to win out of the game.
"We told them from the first practice on, 'We're all going to have a good time,'" said Carlos Amponin, head coach of the North. "Obviously, we're here to win the game, but we're here to have fun."
In the South's huddle pregame, Hall echoed Amponin's stress-free approach to the game.
"You have fun, do your job and come up smiling," he told his team.