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TAMPA - At the halftime of Saturday's Annual Blue-Grey All-star game, the South team trailed 34-7 and seemed to be dysfunctional.
It's a good thing they play four quarters in football - and then some, as the South squad rallied to win 47-44 in double-overtime.
Led by Florida talent Keith Harrington, Tre Watson, John Battle Jr. and Deiondre Porter, the Grey squad scored 39 points in the second half and overtime; forced two key turnovers; had two goal line stands; returned a kickoff 99 yards and - oh yea - won the game.
"We just weren't playing our style of football," said Harrington, bound for Washington State. "We just ran the ball right up the middle in the second half. We have some good receivers and some good cornerbacks, but in conditions like these, we trusted our offensive line and ran it down their throat."
A downpour just before the game started left a muddy field for the 90-some athletes from all over the country. The 1000 fans in attendance at cavernous Raymond James Stadium were loud and proud of their family members.
The North jumped to a 34-7 halftime lead mostly because no one could stop Wisconsin bound Chris Jones (175 yards, three touchdowns). His first touchdown, a 79 yarder, came off a underthrown pass where two defenders collided and Jones simply ran by the prone defenders into the end zone.
Jones caught a second touchdown on the next drive, a 54 yarder that he caught in stride.
His third TD of the half came on a fade route to the corner of the end zone.
Enter John Battle Jr.
For the rest of the game, the LSU commit shadowed Jones - denying him the ball and forcing the North to play half the field.
But the south offense still sputtered.
"We were trying too much," Harrington said. "Our coaches told us at halftime, we're just going to get physical."
Harrington finished with 187 yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winner. The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Northeast senior carried the load in the second half and in the overtimes - picking up all 20 yards in the second extra period on three carries.
His last carry of the night surmised the style of Harrington - squirting out of tackles and breaking free - diving into the endzone before being mobbed by a jubilant south squad.
Perhaps the most electrifying moment prior to that were back-to-back kickoff returns for touchdowns.
The north offense, which was held scoreless in the second half, could only register a 83 yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Hopkinsville (Ky.) High School RB Dee Killebrew. That run came after Harrington cut the lead to 34-20 on a 12-yard scamper around the left corner, with four minutes remaining in the third.
Enter Sarasota (Fla.) WR Shawn Bane Jr.
Bane took the ensuing kickoff at the one, got two great blocks from the return team and cut across midfield and raced 99 yards to the end zone - keeping it a two-score game, 41-27
An interception by Lubbock (Texas) safety Matthew Tackitt (the third turnover of the half for the North) set up the South on the next drive and Harrington made them pay.
The elusive 5-foot-9, 174 pound RB took a handoff from Porter, got a seal block from Tampa Catholic WR Justin Motlow and zigged and zagged his way into the end zone from 37 yards out to make it a one-score game, 41-34.
Again, the South would stop the North, but this time on fourth-down with the ball at the South 23. With Battle blanketing Jones, North QB Charles App decided he'd go opposite and try to get a pass to Shawn Doucette, but Tampa Freedom DB Jay Maduro broke up the pass down the left sideline
This time it was Porter's turn.
The soon-to-be USF Bull, playing on the field where he hopes to lead the South Florida football team, raced 37 yards down the far sideline for the game-tying touchdown, with just over five minutes left.
The two teams would both have a shot to win the game in regulation, but were unable.
In the first overtime, the South offense suffered a holding call, which put the ball on the 30. After a clutch catch by Motlow to get the ball within field goal range, kicker Chris Gotchie missed wide left.
After the miss, Battle stepped up twice to stop the North - once on second down, batting down a pass and on third down - by intercepting one.
In the second overtime, the North went back to the short passing game, and Doucette got down to the one on a swing pass before Watson pushed him out of bounds.
The South defense stood firm, denying the North from point-blank range twice and forcing a 20 yard field goal.
Setting up Harrington's heroics.
"Our offensive line gave me a great push," Harrington said. "Both those runs were as a result of great downfield blocking."
Watson was named defensive player of the game, registering back-to-back turnovers (an interception to start the second half and a fumble recovery). Harrington won offensive player of the game honors for the south.
The north Players of the game were Chris Jones (offense) and Devon Brewer.