All-Star Game Ends in a Tie

All-Star Game

Alex Cornejo of Live Oak High School caught what proved to be the game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter, which clinched a tie for the 13-13 for the South as a squad of South Valley football standouts played under the big lights at Levi’s Stadium Saturday Night at the annual Wedemeyer All-Star Football game.
Cornejo connected with South quarterback Tyler McGovern as the pass sailed by the defender’s shoulders, into Cornejo’s hands. The South capitalized on a facemask penalty committed by the North squad after a fourth-down McGovern interception, which appeared to seal the deal. It was not so.
“It felt great; my quarterback put it in a perfect spot where the defender couldn’t get it,” Cornejo said. “I ran an out, he pump-faked it, and I turned it up where he put in on my back shoulder.”
The game honors Los Gatos High School coach Charlie Wedemeyer, a victim of Lou Gehrig’s disease, who led years of teams even though he couldn’t talk and could only communicate by moving his eyebrows, lips and eyebrows. His wife, Lucy, interpreted and spoke to the teams.
Wedemeyer died in 2010 and was the subject of a PBS documentary, One More Season, and a made for TV movie, Quiet Victory: The Charlie Wedemeyer Story.
It was a night to remember for the six South Valley players representing the South team. Playing under the big lights at the home of the San Francisco 49ers, each played a key role in tying the game. For many of the players participating in the game, this was their last chance to shine on the gridiron.
“This is my last high school football game, so it feels great,” Cornejo, who will play baseball at West Valley College said. “I made a lot of friends here. It stinks that it’s over because I was starting to get to know a lot of them.”
The South’s offense was stuck in neutral for much of the game. However, offensive lineman Victor Sanchez from Gilroy High School made the necessary adjustments to get the offense in motion.
“In the beginning, we had a slow start but, by the half we started to pick it up,” Sanchez said. “We were mostly feeling out what they were going to do. From there we talked about we figured out the blocks. With every single pass, we gave our quarterbacks a little more time in the pocket. Our defense really helped us out.”
On defense, the South was able to rein in the North save for a pair of touchdown scores in the second quarter. Hefty running back Brandon Inneh burst through the line and shrugged off tacklers on his way to a 35-yard touchdown score mid-way through the quarter handing the South a 7-0 lead. A couple of minutes later, North quarterback William Liddle placed a 49-yard touchdown pass on a dime to receiver Preston James to give the North a 13-0 lead following a failed point after attempt.
That was it for the North. Live Oak High School defensive end Zach Heffernan routinely terrorized the edge, rushing the passer and running down running backs. Heffernan, for one, was not satisfied with a tie ballgame
“I’ll remember that they didn’t let us go into overtime, you can’t end on a tie,” Heffernan, who will play tight end for D-3 Claremont McKenna College. “We had a couple of rivalries happening between us going into this, but we put that aside to get it done.”
With the game on the line late, cornerback Noah Liberatore of Christopher High School saw a lot of critical action. With the North driving, Liberatore forced an incomplete pass in the end zone which helped keep the South in the game.
“I’m glad I was in that spot, I wanted the ball to be thrown my way and I really wanted that pick at the end,” Liberatore said. “Watching my buddy score that late touchdown was awesome. It’s good that we tied it, but winning the game would have been great. I would have loved to go into overtime.”
The memories of playing under the big lights, cheered on by friends and family, made the game one to remember.
“It’s loud, way louder than I expected, but the field itself isn’t larger than any other,” said Isaiah Fernandez of Sobrato High School. “These guys are all-stars, so they really made me better. But, my family was here and my friends were here, so I’ll always remember that.”
“It feels great to play my last high school game in Levi’s Stadium,” Sanchez said. “I have a lot of my family here and it’s great to have them see me play here. In the future, I hope to play here some day with the 49ers.”
“In a high school kids head this was the experience of a lifetime, it’s everyone’s dream to play here someday on Sunday,” Liberatore said.
The defense for both squads dominated early as the offense for either team had trouble staying in sync. All players involved needed to get back into a football state of mind.
“We had two weeks of practice,” Fernandez said. “I haven’t played football in awhile, so I had to get my jitters out of me. Football is all mental, so I had to do a lot to get mentally prepared.”
Following the game, players mingled with family and friends in front of Levi’s Stadium. For Eddie Vargas Jr. of Gilroy High School, who posed with what seemed like dozens of friends and families for pictures after the game, the memories will last forever despite the tie.
“It was a great way to end my high school career,” Vargas said. “Although we didn’t win, we didn’t lose either. I’ll count that as a W. People go their whole lives watching the NFL, wishing they could be there and never having the chance to even be on the field. To have this honor is great.”
There were about 2,500 to 3,000 people in the stands. The six South Valley players were well represented, generating large cheers from the stands.