For 88 of San Diego County’s high school football standouts, the 24th Annual Alex Spanos All-Star Classic was their farewell to their prep sports careers. It was the final opportunity for these young men to wear their school helmets with pride and play under the Friday night lights in one of the most prestigious All Star games in the state.
The South squad edged out the North in a 21-17 victory, tying the South and North at 10 wins each since the game went to a regional format. The roster included seven San Diego State and USD-bound players, including Grossmont quarterback Anthony Lawrence, who set three San Diego Section CIF passing records during his tenure with the Foothillers.
“I didn’t know if I was going to get another high school game,” Lawrence said. “So being able to play in this one was a great honor and a great way to finish my high school career.”
Chargers tight end
“This [game] is what it’s all about,” Novak said. “To be here to represent the Chargers, my hometown team, and to be able to go through this process of high school, college and the NFL, and to not know that I was going to play at this level in the NFL, is a dream come true.”
“It’s a good opportunity for me to be out here,” said Johnson, who signed with the team in March. “I came from a good football powerhouse [Pine Bluff, Ark.] and I had a good career, so I know what it means to these guys to have it all their senior year and it’s about to be all over.”
Along with Johnson and Novak, Chargers Executive Vice President and CEO A.G. Spanos assisted the coin toss to open the game while the Charger Girls performed at halftime. Still, the main focus was on the departing high schoolers who had one last chance to perform before heading to college.
Two MVP trophies were awarded to Sebatsian Tengan and Hunter Correll. Correll was greatly appreciative of his opportunity to play in the game and grateful to the Spanos family for putting on an event like this.
“I really appreciate what they [the Spanos Family] do,” Correll said. “It’s an amazing event. And it was so cool to be able to go to their facilities, (use) all this equipment that they’ve given us and the pants [with the Chargers bolt]. They treat us like we’re NFL players. I loved it.”
Lawrence echoed the same sentiment, citing the Chargers as the only NFL franchise to put on a game like this. Despite his team losing, Grant Huffman felt honored and indebted to the Chargers organization for the opportunity to play in this game.
“I can’t find the words to describe how grateful I am to come out here and play another game with this type of crowd and this kind of support,” Huffman said. “Especially from the Spanos family, (this) is a great experience. Some of the friendships I’ve built over these past two weeks hopefully I’ll have for a very long time. It was just a great experience to come out here under the lights another time.”
Johnson said he didn’t get the opportunity to play in an all-star game in high school, but Novak credits his for helping him get a scholarship to the University of Maryland. Both players enjoy getting out into the community and sharing their love of the game with young athletes.
“This is the norm for the Chargers. It’s all about the community,” Novak said. “It’s all about showing that we’re not just here as a football franchise, we’re here to make an impact in our community.”
While this was an end of an era for the high school class of 2014, the Chargers class of 2014 is just getting started. With training camp less than two weeks away, Novak and Johnson are looking forward to getting back on the field and taking the team further than where they finished last year.
“I’ve just been working hard getting ready for the season,” Johnson said. “I’m really looking forward to camp and getting the camaraderie and the team together. Everyone’s got their mind on one goal, and that’s to win a Super Bowl.”