CORONA – It was all about defense and middle linebacker Bryce Smith from Vista Murrieta High School was named the game’s MVP in the 28th Annual Inland Empire All-Star Classic Football Game between Riverside County All-Stars and San Bernardino County All-Stars. Riverside County won the contest 30-2. The cold thirty-degree temperatures could not cool off the hot Riverside team.
Smith was credited with three punt blocks in the first quarter. “We knew that special teams – punt-blocking, in particular – could make a difference in the game, said Smith, “so we decided to go for it.” His first block came at the 5:54 mark on a 4th-and-six at the 24-yard line when four teammates poured through the line and converged on the punter. Marvin Hifo (Heritage) recovered and carried it to the four-yard line. Jakob Certeza (Great Oak), the Southwestern League’s #2 rusher, scored on his second carry for the first score of the game. “I did everything I could to get into the end zone one last time,” said Certeza. He played outside linebacker most of the game and on special teams.
Following the kick-off, San Bernardino gained a first down on a pass interference call and then faced a 4th-and-nine from the 35-yard line. Smith blocked the punt and La Sierra linebacker, Acquarey Eddington, returned it to the 8-yd line. A Riverside fumble at the four-yard line on third down led to a mad scramble for the ball which San Bernardino recovered at the 17 yd line.
Four plays later San Bernardino was punting from their own 15 yd line, when Smith blocked his third punt with 1:09 left in the first quarter. On the play, a San Bernardino player kicked the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety and Riverside County led 9-0.
On the first play of the second quarter, Great Oak Garrett Ackerman’s punt was blocked by San Bernardino. Four plays later, Jonathan Gonzales’ (Apple Valley) 47-yd field goal attempt was wide right, but a roughing the kicker penalty gave San Bernardino a first down at the Riverside fifteen-yard line.
The aggressive Riverside defense forced them back to the 48-yd line for a 3rd-and-43. Murrieta Valley safety, the Southwestern League’s Defensive MVP and Oregon State-commit, Terin Solomon, knocked down a deep post pass to one of the area’s best receivers, DeAndre Williams (Serrano), to force a punt. The punt was downed at the