Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
From left, Cody Woolsey (Chowchilla), J.J. Espinoza (Madera), Colton Cardoza (Liberty) and Colt Nelson (Madera) represented Madera-area schools at the 65th annual City/County All-Star Football Game at Central’s Koligian Stadium.
FRSNO — The City All-Stars capitalized on a safety and an interception late in the game to take home All-Star game honors at Deran Koligian Stadium, the home of the Central Grizzlies on Friday night.
Five seniors from the Madera and Chowchilla area were selected between the two squads in the 65th City/County All-Star game.
Madera had their dynamic duo of quarterback Colt Nelson and receiver J.J. Espinoza, Chowchilla had Cody Woolsey, while Liberty and Madera South had one each in Colton Cardoza and Mathew Posas, respectively.
The game featured some of the best graduating seniors in the Central Valley, but points and big plays were hard to come by early on.
However, Nelson provided the initial spark in the second half with an 82-yard touchdown pass to Central’s Milton Clements.
“I was super pumped. I saw Milton going, I got the throw out and I was like that is going all the way,” Nelson said.
Clements’ short catch and run, was one of only four touchdowns on the night. Trent Tompkins (Central) had a touchdown pass and Roosevelt Rough Riders quarterback Angel Maldonado had both a passing and rushing score with the help of Golden Eagles bruiser up front Eric Castillo, who provided the needed protection.
When the fourth quarter rolled around, the sense of urgency began to pick up. The game was all even at seven after future Fresno State Bulldog and former San Joaquin Memorial-Fresno star Josh Kelly caught a touchdown pass to tie the game, responding to Nelson’s long score.
Players were more animated on the field after a big hit or after a big run and catch. Both teams wanted to win, but time was an issue.
After a muffed punt by the County team that resulted in a safety and a 9-7 lead for City late in the game, Clovis West’s Thomas Curran came up big.
The former Golden Eagle picked off Tompkins in his own red zone, setting up a short touchdown run by Maldonado to take a 15-7 lead after a missed extra point.
Tompkins led the County comeback with an 11-yard touchdown to Preston Conti (Minarets).
On his next possession, trailing 15-13, Tompkins connected on a 43-yard pass with only minutes remaining to set up the potential game-winning field goal.
Tompkins took the kick, but the ball was drilled directly into the offensive line blocking for him, ending the game.
Although Espinoza didn’t get a pass thrown his way as often as he would’ve liked, he was happy to play with Nelson once again and thankful to get a chance to be out there with some of the best players in the Valley.
“It was a good time especially playing with Colt. We have one more game next week, but it’s fun to be out there with him and all the rest of the players,” he said.
When asked about the atmosphere of the all-star game, Espinoza mentioned it was all fun and games, but the intensity began to pick up.
“At first it was all about fun, but then it got really competitive,” Espinoza said. “Once it got towards the end, both teams were trying to score. It was a close game the whole time so both teams really wanted to score.”
Posas wasn’t able to take part in the event, but his tough running style would’ve suited this game perfectly. Outside a few deep passes, both teams relied on their run games.
For Nelson, after his opening touchdown, he found it tough sledding the rest of the way. Nelson was picked off, which set up a touchdown by the City team, but Nelson hung tough in the pocket despite a strong County rush.
Nelson has one last chance in the North/South All-Star Game Saturday in merced, but his time in the City/County game was well worth it, including playing with Tompkins who won the Valley Championship last season.
“It was just so much fun to go out there. There was so much energy from the all the players and they just made it a great experience. The love of the game keeps me going,” Nelson said. “Trent is a really great quarterback, whether in practice or in the game, we were able to learn from each other and we just had a good time on the field.”
High School football has one more night left in the season with the North/South All-Star Game on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Merced’s Veterans Stadium on the Golden Valley High School Campus. Fourteen players from the Madera and Chowchilla area are expected to play in that game.