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SHRINE FOOTBALL GAME

USC-Bound Dennis Leads Rout

July 14, 2002|ERIC STEPHENS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Don't tell the South team that the 51st Shrine All-Star Football Classic was an exhibition.

The Southern California team dominated its Northern California counterpart, 43-13, before 5,243 Saturday night at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.

The high school all-star game reverted to an all-California format after seven years of matching a team of California players against those from Texas.

Long Beach Poly's Hershel Dennis, who recently learned he is eligible to play for USC in the fall after achieving a qualifying score on the SAT, ran for 93 yards in 20 carries and scored a touchdown to win the most valuable player award for the South.

"He's the real deal," said South quarterback Matt Moore. "I've seen him on TV and I met him once before. He's two times better in person."

The UCLA-bound Moore, who led Newhall Hart to its fourth consecutive Southern Section Division III title in December, ran for two scores and threw for 146 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to Chino's Chris McFoy in the second quarter that gave the South a 21-7 lead.

A flurry of yellow flags came near the end of the second quarter. The North's Brandon Lewis and James Henderson, and the South's Robert Hamilton were ejected.

"You have football players out there," Moore said. "Sometimes, the emotion out there was bad. We knew that we were both playing for the kids [at Shriners' Hospital], but when you get between the lines, you're out there playing to win."

Moore completed six of eight passes for 116 yards in the first half. In the opening drive, he completed passes of 16 yards to Chris Steck and 17 yards to Marcedes Lewis. Moore capped the 80-yard march with a one-yard sneak.

The drive exposed the disparity in talent between the teams. The South was loaded with high-level Division I players. Ten UCLA recruits were on the roster, and USC, Washington and Colorado also had significant representation.

Dennis, The Times' Glenn Davis Award winner as the Southland's best high school player, and California-bound Donnie McCleskey of Bishop Amat combined to run for 137 yards in the first half behind an offensive line led by Robert Chai of Newport Harbor.

"This was fun," said Chai, who will attend UCLA. "It's a great honor to block for a guy like Dennis. You hear all about him and then you finally get to see him on the field."

By contrast, tiny Sacramento State seemed to have the most recruits on the North team. The squad's top player, Stanford-bound quarterback Trent Edwards of Los Gatos, was limited by a heavy pass rush.

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