Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Red wins thrilling UA All-America Game
By Jeremy Crabtree ESPN.com
ST. PETERSBERG, Fla. -- Taylor Bertolet was the smallest guy on the field at Wednesday's Under Armour All-America Game at Tropicana Field. But in the end, he made the game's biggest play.
With no time left on the clock, Bertolet, the nation's No. 2 kicker from Reading (Pa.) Exeter Township, nailed a game-winning field goal from 24-yards out, giving the Red team a 24-22 victory.
Taylor Bertolet, a Texas A&M commit, got a free ride after his field goal gave the Red team the win.
The kick came with plenty of drama, though.
With 3 seconds left on the clock, Bertolet's first attempt to win the game was blocked from 28 yards out, sparking a massive celebration by the White squad. Players rushed the field and buckets of ice were poured on coaches' heads, but in the back of the end zone was a flag.
The referees called the White team for illegal procedure, giving Bertolet, a Texas A&M pledge, another opportunity.
He didn't miss.
"I've made some big kicks against rivals in high school but nothing like this," Bertolet said. "To kick the game-winning field goal on national television like this ... Wow. I've never been carried off the field before. I'm speechless."
Bertolet wouldn't have had the chance to be the hero had it not been for a 43-yard hook up from Kiehl Frazier to Eli Rogers with 59 seconds remaining. Frazier, the four-star Auburn bound quarterback from Springdale (Ark.) Shiloh Christian, looked at one point like he was going to be sacked on the play, but he broke contain and found a streaking Rogers down the left sideline. The pass took the Red to the 13-yard line and five plays later Bertolet completed the comeback.
"Once I saw the quarterback scrambling, I looked for my corner and saw he had bit on the scramble," said Rogers, the nation's No. 116 player from Miami Northwestern who is heading to Louisville. "I faded on back, stayed close to the sidelines and just took off down the field.
"It was the most exciting play I've ever made in the biggest game of my life. But then we had that field goal situation where it looked like we were going to lose. I'm just glad it worked out for us in the end. It was a minute of my life I'll never forget."
At the end of the third quarter, it looked like the Red team had the game under control with a 21-9 lead. Florida-bound five-star quarterback Jeff Driskel showed why he is the nation's top signal caller with 63-yard touchdown run that had to remind Gators fans of Tim Tebow.
On the play, Driskel shook off a tackle from James Vaughters and broke through on the left side of the line of scrimmage. He then made a cut back across the field and outraced the entire defense for the touchdown.
The game seemed to even further iced when Erique Florence intercepted a pass in end zone, but the White team came storming back.
Jarvis Landry, who was named MVP for the White team, caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Max Wittek to cut the score to 21-16. Then the White team then took a 22-21 lead with 1:47 left when Malcolm Mitchell toasted Florence for a 49-yard score.
That then set the stage for Bertolet's big kick.
And despite all the drama on the first attempt to win the game, he had no worries he would connect the second time around.
"There was no way I was going to miss," Bertolet said. "No way. No. way. No way. All I asked was for my boy Zach Ewan to get the ball back to the holder. He did, I was fluid in my kick, and the next thing I know I'm being hoisted up in the air."
Local product Anthony Chickillo of Tampa (Fla.) Alonso was named the Red MVP after he recorded four tackles, 1½ tackles for a loss, a quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery.
"This was a great experience," Chickillo, a four-star Miami commitment, said. "It's very special. A lot of people came out to watch me. I'm just glad I didn't disappoint them."
Jeremy Crabtree is the senior coordinator of recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jeremy.Crabtree@espn.com.