HILLSBORO — It was a modern day David vs. Goliath matchup Saturday at the 72nd annual Les Schwab Tires Bowl at Hillsboro Stadium.
The South, comprised mainly of 5A division players, evened the series record with the North (mainly 6A players), posting a 33-28 victory in a game that was not as close as the score.
“It was not your typical all-star game,” said Pendleton center Everett Willard, who played for the South. “We were playing with a chip on our shoulder. I knew that the North had notoriously dominated the past few years.”
Joining Willard on the South team were Pendleton teammates Blake Davis, Ian Bannister and Aiden Patterson. Bucks coach Erik Davis served as an assistant coach (receivers and special teams).
“It was a phenomenal week,” coach Davis said. “A really, really fun week. Being around that staff and those kids — I took in every last second. It was a blast.”
The South led from the start, and held a 20-8 lead after the first quarter, and 20-15 at the half.
“We felt the North wasn’t giving us the respect we deserved,” Willard said. “In the first (quarter), we had to take it to them, and we did.”
The South missed a field goal late in the game with a 33-28 lead, and the North took over deep in its own territory in the waning seconds, but could not get the ball down field.
Silverton’s Ben Willis sacked North quarterback Jackson Laurent of Lake Oswego with 10 seconds remaining to seal the win.
“We had them pinned pretty deep,” Willard said.
Davis finished with two catches for 23 yards, while Patterson had tackles from his linebacker position, and Bannister (cornerback) helped shut down the North receivers.
“All four Pendleton kids started,” coach Davis said. “That was earned. They represented Pendleton really well.”
At 6-foot, 265 pounds, Willard said he was by far the smallest offensive lineman on the South.
“They were all outstanding players,” Willard said. “I wasn’t sure what kind of playing time I was going to get that first practice. There were two other centers, but they were more comfortable at guard.”
Undersized or not, Willard made an impression on the coaches. He was named a co-captain for the game along with Nate Overholt of Wilsonville, Isaiah Porter of Tigard and Connor McNabb of Scappoose.
“The morning of the game, we had a run through,” Willard said. “I was pretty surprised when then called my named. I guess I didn’t consider myself with all the D-I commits we had.”
Coach Davis said Willard earned the honor.
“Our offensive line coach (Todd Kaanapu of Churchill) made that decision,” Davis said. “From Day 1, Everett was one of the first kids on the field, and he was solid, consistent and a leader. He did everything right, every time. He earned it.”
Willard, who played every offense down, snapped the ball to Overholt, the Oregon Gatorade Player of the Year, and DeMonte Thomas of Churchill.
“Nate is legit,” Willard said. “Any talk of him being over hyped, that is gone. I’ll never forget this. It was a great week.”