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Page of Eagle Point steals the show

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Eagle Point’s Noah Page proved to be a one-man wrecking crew, leading the South team to a 33-28 victory in the 72nd annual Les Schwab Bowl all-star football game Saturday night at Hillsboro Stadium.

The wide receiver exploded for three long touchdowns — all in the first quarter — and was chosen the most valuable player in the contest that showcases graduating seniors from Oregon’s Class 6A and 5A schools.

The game wasn’t decided until Silverton’s Ben Willis sacked Jackson Laurent of Lake Oswego with 10 seconds left to seal the South’s victory, which evened the series at 34 wins apiece, with four ties.

The contest had its share of chippiness that spilled into the postgame handshake line, with trash talk and offers to meet up in the parking lot being exchanged as the teams met at midfield.

Running back Jobadiah Malary of Barlow chalked it all up to “just a bunch of competitors going at it,” but players from the South team pointed to several other factors as well — geography, 5A vs. 6A (the North had two players from 5A schools; the South had 20) and the perceived talent gap.

“They have a ton of guys committed to a bunch of big schools,” said 5A Eagle Point’s Page, who will play slot for New Mexico Military Institute, a junior college in Roswell. “But we have a ton of talent on our team, too.”

That, of course, included him.

Page caught six passes for 224 yards and the trio of scores, setting the tone on his first touchdown by breaking two tackles and sprinting to the end zone to put the South on top 24 seconds into the game.

“After that first one, I just kept rolling,” Page said. “I felt good.”

Wilsonville quarterback Nate Overholt, who set the single-season passing touchdowns record last fall in leading the Wildcats to the 5A title game, noted how the atmosphere surrounding the game changed during a week spent in the dorms at Pacific University.

“We’d get together at night, play video games against each other, and it started out fun, but eventually it got hostile,” Overholt said. “And this game, it got really hostile. All that talk about how 5A can’t play with 6A, it was nice to get that chance to see if that was true.”

Overholt, who is considering offers from junior colleges in California and Texas, finished 8 of 18 for 158 yards and two touchdowns while getting the chance to mix with players from all over the map — from Scappoose (Connor McNabb) to Medford (North Medford’s Eli Spence) and Bend (Mountain View’s Forrest Love).

Spence, the only other Rogue Valley player in the game, played running back and led the South with 39 yards on nine carries. He also had one catch for 51 yards. He’s headed to Portland State, where he’ll play tight end.

Page’s first touchdown followed an interception on the game’s first play by Wilsonville’s Trevor Antonson.

His second, a 72-yard bomb from Churchill’s Demontre Thomas II, came after a chop block penalty wiped out a 60-yard pass to McMinnville’s Colton Smith. Page saw that the safety was cheating off him, leaving him one-on-one with a linebacker in coverage.

“I told my coach, and he said that he saw the same thing,” Page said. “So, on that play, I got past him, and there was no one within 10-15 yards of me.”

The North got on the scoreboard on its next possession on a 13-yard fade pass from Liberty’s Brad Norman to Southridge’s Keyvaun Eady, but the South immediately answered as Thomas again found a wide-open Page deep in the secondary for a 50-yard score.

The North closed the gap to 20-15 just before halftime on a 6-yard pass from Laurent to Reynolds’ Kehdon Fletcher. The South restored its two-score advantage on its opening drive of the second half, with McNabb running in from the 1.

Grant’s Marcus Harris flashed the speed that allowed him to finish third in the 100 meters and second in the 200 at the 6A state track meet last month, returning a punt 90 yards for a touchdown to get the North within 26-22.

The teams exchanged missed field goals before the South hit on another big pass play — this one a 59-yard strike from Overholt to Love — to take a 33-22 lead into the final quarter.

The North closed the scoring on the first play of the fourth quarter on a 4-yard pass from Laurent to Fletcher. It had four more chances for a go-ahead score, the last coming after holding the South in the red zone with 33 seconds left.

But after three incompletions, Willis came in on Laurent untouched and put the finishing touches on the victory.

“We knew things would get chippy, real intense. You can see, it came down to the final play,” said Malary, who ran for a game-high 83 yards and earned North back-of-the-game honors. “We’re upset that we couldn’t pull out the win. But at the end of the day, only one team can win.”

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