CARTERVILLE — Like all the good players, Herrin’s Jackson Yates didn’t let a couple of early misplays define his game.
The Southern Illinoisan Player of the Year bounced back in the second half Friday night with a pair of touchdowns, including the game-winner with 21.9 seconds left, as his Red team rallied from a 21-point first half deficit to edge the Blue 33-30 in the fifth annual Southern Illinois All-Star Game at Lions Field.
Yates, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, scored on a 4-yard run that capped a 59-yard drive in 50 seconds after Anna-Jonesboro’s Reid Morrison tallied on a 6-yard jaunt with 1:11 remaining to give the Blue a brief 28-27 advantage.
“This was awesome,” Yates said. “The guys all made practice fun. At the beginning of the game, I made a couple of errors, so I was flustered. And in the second half, we came out and put it together.”
Yates and his fellow defensive backs couldn’t cope with the Blue team’s passing game in the first half. Anna-Jonesboro’s Connor Jerolds was a perfect 12 of 12 for 138 yards, finding Anthony Cole (Du Quoin) and Reese Lee (Fairfield) for scoring strikes of 31 and 11 yards, respectively.
Du Quoin’s Josh Heape and Mount Vernon’s Nick Malone made it 21-0 at the 6:44 mark of the second quarter with a 65-yard connection. Malone won a one-on-one battle for the ball with Yates and then broke his tackle attempt, gliding the final 35 yards to the end zone.
Yates may have been flustered then. He did the flustering to start the second half.
Taking a kickoff at his 5, he followed Carbondale’s Javon Love down the right side and tightroped most of the last 60 yards on the sideline. Yates came really close to stepping out of bounds at the Blue 40, but stayed in and finished off a 95-yard return that made it a 21-13 game 15 seconds into the half.
“Javon told me that he had this block, and he did,” Yates said. “That’s why I was able to go off to the races.”
Love was part of the Terrier connection that helped the Red team mount its comeback. He caught seven passes for 117 yards, including a 63-yard reception from teammate Jakeba Burleigh at the 3:24 mark of the third quarter that drew Red within 21-19.
Burleigh looked like the same guy who quarterbacked Carbondale to the second round of the playoffs. He started slow, as he occasionally did, and found a rhythm in the second quarter, as he usually did. And as he normally did with a game to be won and one drive to do it, he found a way to get work done.
After Austin Reliford returned a kickoff to the 41, Burleigh promptly went 5 for 5 on the winning drive, divvying up the catches between Love and Nashville’s Tanner Bergmann. The last completion to Love got the ball to the 4, and Yates did the rest.
Getting good blocks from the interior of the line, Yates displayed the same nose for the goal line that enabled him to have one of the best rushing seasons in Tiger history.
“The line did really well. They were phenomenal,” he said.
That included Murphysboro’s Maurice Valliant, who had multiple tackles for loss and also blocked a punt out of bounds at the 9 that set up a Burleigh touchdown pass to teammate Austin Reliford with 3:41 left in the game for a 25-21 Red lead.
Burleigh completed 18 of 27 passes for 201 yards. Jerolds finished 15 of 16 for 152 yards while running 21 times for 76 yards.