CORONA CHRISTOPHER HADORN
All-Star football games often are characterized as meaningless exhibitions, but the Riverside All-Stars didn’t treat this one as such.
Vista Murrieta’s Bryce Smith was involved in three first-quarter punt blocks as Riverside rolled to an overwhelming 30-2 victory over the San Bernardino All-Stars in the 28th annual Inland Empire All-Star Classic played at Corona High School on Saturday night.
Smith was awarded the game’s MVP honors. He was also a disruptive linebacker on a Riverside defense that kept the San Bernardino offense off the scoreboard and held them to 98 total yards.
“We had a lot of fun during the week,” Smith said. “We had a lot of fun on the sidelines. When it came to being on the field, when it came to game time, it was game time. We wanted to win. That was it. We were very competitive. Winning was the number one option. There was no losing for us.”
Chaparral head coach Ryan Tukua’s Riverside squad was enthusiastic about playing despite the frigid temperatures in the high 30s. Prior to the opening kickoff and the start of the second half, his players engaed in high-intensity hitting drills in the east end zone.
“That was what Chap did right before the game,” said Chaparral’s Patrick Clifford, who recovered a fumble in the game. “We would always do that just to get everyone hyped up and everything.”
Smith, who had garnered a reputation as a scrappy, high energy player this year, fit right in on this hyperactive bunch.
Smith set the tone early with a punt block midway through the first quarter. One play later, Great Oak’s Jakob Certeza scored on a 5-yard run to push Riverside to a 7-0 lead with 5:18 remaining in the first quarter.
“I was so excited when they (coaches) called ‘red,’” said Certeza, who primarily played linebacker, not his usual position of running back. “I am in the power offense and its (called) ‘red’. I came into the game as a linebacker, and they called ‘red’ in and I was ahhh, ‘this is my chance. This is my chance to score.’ I just did everything I could to get into that end zone one last time.”
Smith’s third punt block of the quarter rolled out of the end zone for a safety as Riverside increased its lead to 9-0 with 1:09 left.
Murrieta Mesa wide receiver Khalil Sharpe had the game’s longest play from scrimmage, an 84-yard reception that setup Mike Darr III’s 8-yard scoring run in the second quarter.
“I was going as fast as I could,” Sharpe said. “I kind of gassed out a little bit. I got caught out of bounds. He caught me from behind.”
Riverside put the game out of reach at 23-0 when Heritage’s Marvin Hifo scooped up a blocked punt and returned it 13 yards for a touchdown with three seconds left in the third quarter.