In an era where it seems like football is all about the offense, winning teams still need solid play on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
It's no coincidence that the two Cape Coral high school teams that made the playoffs this past season had stars on the defense.
Christian Diaz of Island Coast was named the North team's Most Valuable Player Wednesday at the 25th annual John Carrigan Rotary South All-Star Classic at Fort Myers High's Edison Stadium. Right there with him was Ida Baker's Tyler Iverson.
Cape Coral senior linebacker Sam Hunter recovers a fumble for the North squad during the first quarter of the John Carrigan Rotary South All-Star Classic football game Wednesday at Fort Myers High. The fumble was created by Hunter's Seahawks teammate Curtis Young. More photos are available online at: cu.cape-coral-daily-breeze.com.
The two were all over the field, with Diaz intercepting a South pass in the backfield and Iverson recovering a fumble.
Despite their efforts, their North team lost 20-13 to a South squad that got two of its three touchdowns from its defense.
Diaz said, "This (Island Coast) football team has been my heart and soul the last couple of years. I've got to move on to bigger and better things, but I'll always have love for my team. They're like family to me."
"Last year he was the MVP of our team," Island Coast coach Joe Bowen said of Diaz. "Fundamentally he's a sound ballplayer and he's been a good player for us. We've had some marquee names at the defensive end position, but I'll take Diaz any day. He's a hard worker. He comes to practice every day."
Bowen said Diaz and Iverson are "both hard-working guys. Unfortunately they couldn't have two MVPs. Tonight it worked out well for Diaz."
Bulldogs coach Brian Conn said Iverson, the leading tackler in Ida Baker history, was "the backbone of the defense and a guy who busted his butt 365 days of the year Any time you lose guys who love football it's hard."
Iverson, a four-year starter for the Bulldogs, spent most of the night at his familiar linebacker position. However, he also got on the other side of the ball.
He entered the game in the third quarter as a blocking fullback and also caught a short pass.
"They came to me at the beginning of the week," Iverson said. "They wanted me to play both sides of the ball. They knew I could do it. So I had no choice but to do it."
Conn said he used Iverson as a blocking back at Baker, so he was added to the North's offensive plans for short-yardage offense.
Both Diaz and Iverson are looking at potential college offers.
Cape Coral's Sam Hunter recovered a fumble on the South 23 to set up the game's first score. Caleb Campbell of Evangelical Christian hit Malcolm Smith of Riverdale on an 11-yard pass in the first quarter.
Justin Nunez of Baker recovered a fumble on his own 5 one play after the South team grabbed a fumble by North Fort Myers quarterback Brandon Makar on the North 8.
Diaz's interception halted another South drive.
After that, however, the South team took command for a 20-6 halftime lead.
The South scored on an 11-yard run by Ryan Keegan of Estero to tie the game at 6-6, then got a pair of defensive scores.
D'Ronzjiah Mattews of South Fort Myers ran back an interception 30 yards for a touchdown and Bishop Verot's Price LaPrey took another one back 43 yards. Matthews scored a two-point conversion after LaPrey's touchdown.
LaPrey was named the South team MVP.
Cape Coral's Rhasheed Jiles scored on a nine-yard touchdown pass from Campbell with three seconds left in the game. Filander Barahona of Baker made the extra point.
There were some offensive highlights from Cape area players. There was Jiles' TD, and fellow Seahawk Eamon Smart was the North's leading rusher with 54 yards on 11 carries.
The surprise on offense for the North squad might have been Mariner's Jonah Markovits, the Tritons' quarterback this fall, was the North's leading receiver Wednesday with eight catches for 88 yards.
The South team has won 17 of the 25 Carrigan all-star games, with seven North victories and one tie.
North 6 0 0 7 - 13
South 0 20 0 0 - 20
North: Smith 11 pass from Campbell (kick failed)
South: Keegan 12 run (kick failed)
South: Matthews 30 interception return (kick blocked)
South: LaPrey 43 interception return (Matthews run)
North: Jiles 9 pass from Campbell (Barahona kick)