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ST PETERSBURG -- The nation got a chance to see high school football's best in St. Petersburg on Friday night in the Under Armour High School All-America Game. What the nation got to see, aside from Team Highlight (Black Team) defeat Team Nitro (White Team) 16-3, was some of the best defense in high school football.
For forty-eight minutes, defenses for both squads bullied wide receivers, wreaked havoc on quarterbacks and stuffed running backs. The game featured just one touchdown, four field goals, four interceptions, nineteen combined points and sixteen punts.
The Tampa native had five total tackles, .5 tackles for loss and an interception for Team Highlight. The performance earned him the Black Team MVP award. The White Team MVP went to Alabama native Reuben Foster. Foster had game high six tackles, 2.5 for a loss.
The game was close after one half; both teams were separated by just a touchdown, Team Highlight led 10-3. The second half played much like the first, with the defense dominating. The third quarter showed both teams combine for just forty total yards and no points scored.
Neither team did much better in the fourth quarter. Team Highlight had four total yards, but scored on two field goals of 30 and 31 yards from St. Petersburg (Fla.) kicker Sean Covington.
Team Nitro mustered just five yards of offense and could not get into the end zone.
Team Highlight quarterbacks managed the game enough to get the win.
Christian Hackenberg went 4-16 for 34 yards and was sacked twice. Cooper Bateman went 4-12 and threw the only touchdown pass of the game.
Nitro's offensive problems stemmed from turnovers. The team coughed it up seven eight times; four fumbles and four interceptions.
Nitro quarterbacks struggled against the Team Highlight pass rush and secondary. Brice Ramsey went 5-16 for 64 yards and 3 interceptions. Kevin Olsen went 5-15 for 22 yards and was sacked twice.
Team Highlight was led offensively by wide receiver Robert Foster and running back Alvin Kamara. The Georgia native rushed for 44 yards on 8 carries. Foster caught four passes for 55 yards.
Team Nitro struggled offensively behind a hard-fought effort by wide receiver Laquon Tredwell. Tredwell led all receivers with six catches and had 46 yards.
The special teams got a workout at Tropicana Field. Punters Shane Tripucka (Nitro) and Covington (Highlight) each averaged over 40 yards per punt. Covington punted eight times and averaged 40.8 yards and Tripucka punted seven times for a 42.1 average.
Team Nitro missed an opportunity to take an early lead in the first quarter. After Dontre Wilson recovered a fumble at the Highlight 27, Pace (Fla.) kicker Ryan Santoso came up short on a 44-yard field goal attempt.
Team Highlight got on the board first late in the first quarter. An 18-yard reception by Robert Foster set Team Highlight up on the Team Nitro 7 yard-line.
After three Hackenberg incompletions, Team Highlight settled for a 25-yard field goal from Covington and a 3-0 lead with seven seconds left in the first quarter.
Team Highlight took a 10-0 lead after Miami Washington LB Matthew Thomas intercepted Ramsey at the Team Nitro 29 yard-line.
Bateman followed up the interception with a six-yard touchdown pass to Josh McNeil.
Team Nitro answered the McNeil touchdown with a 44-yard field goal from Santoso.
Team Highlight quarterbacks Hackenberg and Bateman did not get much opportunity in the first half. The two completed three passes each, Hackenberg in six attempts and Bateman in five.
Team Nitro struggled for much of the first half. Quarterbacks Ramsey, Olsen and Shane Morris combined for just 69 total passing yards.
The game saw five players verbally commit to colleges. Louisiana LB Kendell Beckwith committed to stay home and play for LSU. Brooklyn native DE Ebenezer Ogundeko snubbed home-state Syracuse and decided to play at Clemson. Georgia LB Trey Johnson committed to leave the peach state and play for the Buckeyes at Ohio State. The Golden State's Max Redfield committed to play for Notre Dame, and Armwood's Leon McQuay III, the biggest question of the night, committed to head west and play for Lane Kiffin and USC.
The announced attendance was just over 20,000 at Tropicana Field.