GREENACRES – Down 17-3 at halftime, it seemed as if the National team was headed for a possible blowout loss in the LRISF All-Star Game.
But something big happened along the way early in the third quarter.
With a game-changing interception caught by A.J. Johnson (Glades Day), the entire game started to shift in National’s favor. On their sidelines in the second half, it just had that feel of a major comeback for the winning team.
It’s hard to explain, but it happened immediately after Johnson’s pick happened at his team’s own 25-yard line with 9:20 left in the third quarter.
“Our coach called Seattle, which is Cover 6, on the other side of the field,” Johnson said. “I saw the slot on the opposite side go deep, so I just baited the quarterback to throw inside. Once he made the throw, I just came in and picked it off.”
Aside from Johnson’s momentum-shifting interception, National’s special teams was on point in the second half. They recovered two onside kicks, one of which came to start the third quarter and the other one that happened in the fourth quarter.
With the score still at 17-3 in favor of American, the game really changed when quarterback Eli Matthews (Palm Beach Gardens) found wide receiver Shavon Taylor (West Boca Raton) on a corner route for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 10:51 left.
After kicker Austin Smith (Boca Raton) connected on the extra point, National was now only down 17-10.
“Crunch time,” Taylor said.
The midpoint of the fourth quarter was the game’s real difference-maker in multiple ways.
A pass interference call on the American secondary effectively wiped out a potentially crushing interception caught by Addison Bohannon (St. John Paul II). American may look back on how that happened because it gave National new life on their offensive drive, which ultimately ended with a blistering 8-yard touchdown run by running back Will Bayonne (King’s Academy) with 6:15 left.
With an extra point by kicker Logan Robinson (Wellington), the game was tied at 17-17.
And after a stalled American offensive possession by American, National simply came in for the kill.
The dagger play was actually a screen pass from quarterback Armani Edden (Palm Beach Lakes) to wide receiver D’Ondre Swint (Atlantic), who juked several American defenders and raced his way to a 49-yard touchdown with 4:59 left. Smith’s extra point proved to be the game’s final score at 24-17 in favor of National.
“I give credit to God on that one,” Edden said. “Debo (D’Ondre Swint) just made a play for me. I just had to give it to him.”
After the final buzzer sounded, National head coach Bobby May (Suncoast) rounded his team up to address their comeback win.
“I told you guys in the first half I would not doubt your effort,” May said to the National players. “I knew we were good enough to do it. You just had to want it. Just like anything else in life, if you want something, you can get it done. I’m proud of your effort in the second half, and I’m proud of the way you clawed back.”
Edden was selected as the National offensive MVP, while Roy Sweeney (Palm Beach Gardens) earned National defensive MVP honors.
On the American side, athlete Jalen Kinder (American Heritage – Delray Beach) won offensive MVP honors and Jaden Thompson (Clewiston) took home the team’s defensive MVP trophy.
NOTES: American’s two first-half touchdowns came off a 9-yard end-zone run by running back Anthony Wynds (Palm Beach Central) with 4:04 left in the first quarter and a 3-yard run by running back Demetrius Martin (Glades Central) with 7:20 left in the second.
The two first-half field goals were a 36-yarder by Robinson with 6:31 left in the first (National up 3-0) and a 23-yarder by kicker Marcos Rodriguez (Boynton Beach) at the 2:46 mark of the second quarter.