Try as it might, the North attempted to keep things somewhat close on the scoreboard with the South during the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl at Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, on Jan. 10.
In the end, however, behind the efforts of Karan Higdon and Willie Parker, among others, the South prevailed, 39-14, over its counterparts to give NFL veteran and coach Larry Ryans his fourth consecutive win in as many attempts.
Higdon set the tone early in a showdown pitting some of the nation’s premier prospects in the Class of 2015. The running back and Michigan commit was seemingly unstoppable and had a pair of touchdowns (2-yarder and 5-yarder).
Parker nearly stole the entire show. The running back and Eastern Michigan commit had 118 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns (3-yarder and 7-yarder). He earned the Erik Bell Memorial Award as Most Valuable Player on offense.
Worth mentioning, Samford commit Kelvin McKnight made several big plays for the South on offense, also on special teams in the return game. The up-and-comer with a handful of NCAA Division I offers impressed throughout.
With a different outcome, Jacksonville State commit Will Pyburn might have challenged Parker for the hardware. Still, the South quarterback threw a pair of touchdowns, including a 9-yarder to Arizona commit Darick Holmes.
Pyburn had help, as prior to the game, the hype was about Boston College commit Chris Lindstrom, San Jose State commit Dominic Fredrickson, Virginia Tech commit Austin Clark and Central Michigan commit Logan Slaughter.
South big men Clayton Dry and Zakk Ryherd did rather well for running backs such as Towson commit Shane Simpson, also Roman Andrews and Dominic Struckhoff, wide receiver and Delaware commit Vinny Papale too.
On the defensive side of the ball for the North, Brett Zanotto held his own. And then some. Not surprisingly, the linebacker and Maryland commit took home the Erik Bell Memorial Award as Most Valuable Player on defense.
Kent State commit Nick Faulkner played well for the North. With most of the focus on South Carolina commit Keisean Nixon, Utah State commit Deante Fortenberry and Lamar commit JoJo Henderson managed to hold their own.
Nevertheless, once Higdon and Parker got things going on the ground, the South was difficult to stop. Boston College commit Jeff Smith and Lehigh commit Brad Mayes had plenty of time to do their jobs well at quarterback.
Georgia Southern commit Shane Bucenell put points on the board for the South when he found Connor Ratcliff on a 23-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 19-7 before halftime. The North never threatened thereafter.
There was plenty of recognizable national talent at wide receiver for the South, specifically speaking Washington State commit Tavares Martin. Appalachian State commit Markeyvious Adams was another recruit on hand.
Defensive lineman and Georgia Tech commit Brentavious Glanton was as good as advertised for the South. Fellow big men in the trenches Desmond Logan, Isaiah Frame, Ricky Franklin and Tyler Clark earned respect, too.
South linebacker Cody Endris recovered a pair of fumbles, one of them in the end zone for a touchdown. Peers such as Velvario Faulkner, Donte Abraham, Brandon White and Carson Pearlman made plays all over the field.
In the secondary for the South, New Mexico State commit Dominic Cameron essentially shut down one side of the field. Patrick Sneed did an above average job as well. The same thing could be said about David Gardner.
When push came to shove, Higdon and Parker proved to be the difference. NFL veteran and coach Arlen Harris, along with the North staff, did their best to stop to the tandem. It was not meant to be, however.