Bobby Bowden’s North Team Wins Battle of Florida

By: Manny Navarro: Miami Herald
By: Manny Navarro: Miami Herald

BOCA RATON -- Outside of the beautiful, new 30,000-seat stadium he helped open in October, Howard Schnellenberger’s final season at Florida Atlantic University was pretty much a rough ride. His Owls finished 1-11.

Old rival Bobby Bowden did nothing to soften the blow Saturday night in the inaugural Battle of Florida.

In a college all-star game featuring NFL Draft-eligible players who were either born in Florida or played high school or college football in the state, Bowden’s North squad blew away Schnellenberger’s South squad 51-3 in front of a sparse crowd of a few thousand at FAU Stadium.

Jacksonville University quarterback Josh McGregor led three scoring drives for the North in the opening quarter. South Carolina’s Stephen Garcia added to the North’s 37-0 halftime lead by tossing two third-quarter touchdowns, including a 60-yarder to Louisville’s Josh Bellamy, in the blowout. Midway through the third quarter, organizers began using a running clock.

The game featured eight players from the University of Miami, seven each from USF and UCF, six from Florida State and Bethune-Cookman, three from Florida A&M and FAU and two each from FIU and the University of Florida. Most are considered long-shots to get drafted, but took advantage of the opportunity to be seen by 140 scouts — including those from 29 NFL teams, four Canadian Football League teams and one Arena League team.

Wisconsin defensive back Antonio Fenelus, a former Boca Raton High School standout and two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection, was the game’s lone player to be invited to the NFL Scouting Combine.

McGregor, who threw for more yards and touchdowns than any college quarterback in the state this past season, was among the standouts. He followed up 2-yard TD run by Florida State’s Jermaine Thomas on the game’s opening drive with a a 1-yard touchdown run and completed 11 of his 12 attempts for 123 yards while helping build a 20-0 lead before the South could gain a first down.

Cornerback De’Andre Presley, a standout at Tampa Middleton High and Appalachain State, made arguably the most impressive play of the night when he returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown with 21 seconds left in the first quarter. Presley fielded the punt, bounced off a defender and ran backward before reversing field and following his blockers.

North outside linebacker Jordan Delegal was among the former local high school standouts who went to college outside the state who shined. The former Hollywood Chaminade standout returned an interception 29 yards in the second quarter that led to a North field goal and finished with seven tackles. Delegal finished his senior season at Northern Illinois with 84 tackles.

Former FIU quarterback Wesley Carroll started for the South, but struggled. He finished 1 of 6 for minus-2 yards passing. The South finally scored with a 32-yard field goal with 12:43 left by Alan Gendreau of Middle Tennessee State. Former UF receiver Deonte Thompson had 3 catches for 24 yards to lead the South.

Brian McNeely, cofounder of the game, said it’s too early to know if it will return.

“Obviously our goal is to have a long term All-Star Game. We’re thinking long term. But we need people to embrace it. The idea of what we’re doing is really unique. It’s exciting,” McNeely said. “From a long term viability standpoint, it’s all based on money and interest and if the people in South Florida want to have this kind of game. We’re interested in doing it. … We’re negotiating for a title sponsorship for next year already.”

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