Tigers defensive trio shines, South All-Stars triumph 34-20
The South struggled defensively for the first quarter and a half against the North in the 70th annual Class 4A/5A All-Star Football Game on Wednesday, July 31. But the South would rise, thanks in part to a defensive effort keyed by three Los Lunas High School seniors, to win 34-20 at Milne Stadium in Albuquerque.
The South All-stars spotted the North a 13-0 first quarter lead before tying the game at 20-20 at halftime.
The South’s defense then shut out the North in the second half, largely due to the performance of LLHS linebacker Isaac Parra, defensive end Preston Schollander and defensive back Greg Wortman,
“We just had to step it up,” said Schollander. “We keyed on the quarterback because he was scrambling a lot in the first half.”
Wortman, whose blitz on a third down late in the game contributed to a South interception that sealed the game, credited Roswell Goddard head coach Sam Jernigan and his staff for making the necessary changes going into the second half.
“He is one heck of a coach,” Wortman said of Jernigan. “He made the adjustment at halftime that helped us do better with the pass rush and our blocks off the defensive side.”
The trio, along with LLHS senior quarterback Chris Wisneski, were named to the South All-Stars after the Tigers’ 12-1 state runner-up season in 2012. Wisneski, who threw for 19 touchdowns in leading the Tigers to the Class 4A State Championship game, did not play last Wednesday due to an arm injury he suffered playing baseball this spring.
After the game, the Los Lunas players had nothing but praise for Goddard’s staff and players.
“Everyone would think we’d be rivals because we lost to Goddard in the state championship game, but more than anything we got closer,” said Schollander.
Wortman said he and his LLHS teammates were shown friendship and a lot of respect during the week.
“The guys from Goddard were our closest friends,” he said. “When we came out here, the first thing they told us was they had a lot of respect for us and our game.
“Coach Jernigan sat with us and said he had a lot of respect for us. For him to say the stuff he said with us, it was an honor,” Wortman said.
Against the North, the South defense with Parra, Schollander, Wortman as anchors, came alive in the second half, throttling North signal callers Craig Coffman of Sandia High School and Adam Lucero of Aztec High to douse the North’s offensive firepower.
Meanwhile, the South offense was able to score twice in the second half, as Gadsden High School’s Aaron Gomez, the game’s MVP, led a pair of scoring drives, capping the game’s scoring with his third touchdown of the night in the fourth quarter.
The South’s defensive effort was so thorough in the second half that the North only gained 20 of its 227 yards of total offense after halftime.
By contrast, the South gained 392 yards of total offense, including 221 yards on the ground.
In addition to a pair of second-half interceptions, the South’s defense forced a first-half fumble that led to the team’s first touchdown.
All three Los Lunas products said the game was a great opportunity for them to represent their school.
“It means everything to us,” said Schollander. “We get to represent our village.”
Parra and Wortman said the opportunity to play together, as well as to make new friends was also a part of the three-day experience of being an all-star.
“It always nice to come out and win your last game of high school, come out and play with your boys,” said Parra. “I’ll always remember the last time I played with these guys, that we came out with a ‘W.’”
Schollander echoed the sentiment.
“Since we lost the state championship (game), we needed redemption,” he said.
Parra, who was part of just about every play, injured his foot late in the game while making a tackle on a punt return and did not play the final few minutes.
Despite the injury, which gave Schollander and Wortman cause to help him to go through the handshake line at the game’s end, Parra said the game will always hold a special place for him.
“We worked hard since our sophomore years,” Parra said. “To be picked to play in a game like this, on a big ol’ stage, to come out for more game with your boys, it’s something we’ll remember forever.”
Parra moves on to the New Mexico Military Institute, where he will play baseball.
His Tiger teammates, Schollander and Wortman, will continue playing football for the state’s collegiate rivals — Schollander as a preferred walk-on at New Mexico State and Wortman at the University of New Mexico.
“We’ve played together for 10 years so it’ll be weird playing against each other,” Schollander said.