Courtesy of Mike Nolte
Liberty’s Markie Brandt, right, and Brett Cazares helped the County break a four-game losing streak with a 41-22 victory in the City/County All-Star football game on Friday.
CLOVIS — The County All-Stars got a gamebreaking performance from Andrew Azua and ended a four-year losing streak to the City in the 63rd annual City/County All-Star football game at Clovis High School’s Lamonica Stadium.
Liberty safety/quarterback Markie Brandt played a significant amount of plays at safety and recorded five tackles. Liberty teammate Brett Cazares rotated on the defensive line and recorded a sack during the County’s 41-22 victory Friday night.
“That’s pretty cool to get a sack in a big game like this,” Cazares said. “The coach talked us up and told us they didn’t respect us. I know a lot of those teams don’t know who Liberty is so it was good to go out there and make them understand.”
Brandt earned respect from his coaching staff by coming in to play safety, although he could have elected to play quarterback.
“I felt like I got a lot of respect being a kid that’s going to college to play quarterback and playing safety at the all-star game,” he said. “They respected me a lot for that and I’m thankful to play the game.”
Sanger’s Azua scored three rushing touchdowns and caught another. He also kicked five extra points to give him an all-star game record 29 points. In fact, he helped lead the County to its highest point total in the game’s history. The County’s highest point total was 28 points and Azua beat the record by himself.
He rushed for 131 yards on 25 carries. The County was outgained 281-259, but two City touchdowns accounted for 143 of those yards. However, the County defense forced three turnovers while the special teams added two more. The City also recorded three turnovers.
“It really means a lot to play in a game like this,” Brandt said. “A lot of Div. IV and Div. V schools don’t get that credit so being able to beat guys that are Div. I or Div. II really means a lot.”
“I feel the coolest part was being able to hang out with all the other guys,” Cazares said. “Just being able to laugh and play with other elite players. A lot of these guys, I haven’t seen. To be able to play with them and against them, it makes you a better football player and it was fun.”
The County opened the game by driving down the field. Azua gained 19 yards inside City territory and got a 10-yard gain on a sweep to get a first down at the City 27. However, quarterback Nolan Leforge (Buchanan) was picked off at the 33-yard line.
However, on City’s first play, the snap went over quarterback Brent Bailey’s (Clovis) head and Logan Fogg (Buchanan) recovered at the nine yards.
Three plays later, Azua scored from two-yards out and kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 7:22 left in the first quarter.
City was forced to punt, but another bad snap led to County possession in City territory. However, Leforge was sacked on fourth down to turn the ball over on downs.
The County defense forced City punt, but a fake punt pass went incomplete.
County took over at the City 45-yard line and faced a fourth-and-11 at the 33. Leforge, scrambling, found Azua across the middle. He juked the safety and ran into the end zone for a touchdown with 49.6 seconds left in the first quarter for a 14-0 lead.
The City took over at its own 20-yard line, but faced a second-and-18 after a holding penalty. City quarterback Nate Hughes (Sunnyside) found Brian Johnson (Edison) for a game-record 88-yard touchdown catch-and-run to get on the scoreboard.
The County went three-and-out and pinned the City at its own 19. On the first play, Cazares broke through the offensive line and sacked Bailey for an eight-yard loss. City eventually had to punt.
After a trade in possessions, City took over at its own five-yard line. DeMarcus Wilson (San Joaquin Memorial) carried three times for 44 yards to the 49-yard line. Bailey hit Khory Day (Fresno) for a 45-yard gain to the five-yard line. Three plays later, Bailey scored and completed a two-point conversion pass to tie the game at 14 with 33.5 seconds left in the half.
City opened the second half with the kickoff, but fumbled. Ronnie Reyes (Chowchilla) recovered at the 32-yard line. Three runs by Azua gained 32 yards, including the final 24-yards when he scored off a stiff arm for a 21-7 lead.
Xavier Cayetano (Coalinga) picked off Hughes at the County 16-yard line on the next play. However, County was forced to try a 40-yard field goal, but it was blocked.
County’s Joel Aranda picked off City and gave the County possession, but had to punt. City went on a 10-play drive, but was forced to punt.
After a county punt, City took over at its 45-yard line. Bailey scrambled away from County pressure and found Makevel Siharath (Hoover) for a 55-yards touchdown catch and run. Jordan Ayerza (Clovis North) ran the conversion in for a 22-21 lead with 9:31 left in the fourth quarter.
County went on a nine-play, 63-yard drive capped by a 34-yard Azua run for a 27-22 lead with 6:41 left in the game.
County’s Jordan Dominguez (Selma) picked off City and returned the ball to the 13-yard line. Four plays later, Alex Puga (Caruthers) rushed from a yard out for a 34-22 lead with 5:08 left in the game.
The County defense forced another punt and the County put the game away.
Azua carried 15 yards to the 10-yard line. Ty Muxlow (Kingsburg) closed the game with a three-yard touchdown run. Azua’s extra point gave him 29 points and extended County’s lead to 41-22.
The County forced a sack on City’s next possession and time ran out for the County victory.