The all-stars from Riverside County braved the cold and turned on the heat Saturday night in Corona when they totally dominated the team from San Bernardino County in the 28th annual Inland Empire All-Star Football Classic.
The Riverside defense—led by Vista Murrieta’s Bryce Smith and Murrieta Valley’s Michael Payne and Terin Solomon—shut down San Bernardino's offense all chilly night long.
Smith, who was named the game's Most Valuable Player, had three blocked punts—all in the first quarter. The first led to a five-yard touch down run by the Great Oak Wolfpack’s Jakob Certeza. The second resulted in a safety for Riverside. Smith’s final blocked punt resulted in another Riverside touch down as Santiago’s Michael Darr carried the ball into the end zone from eight yards out on a quarterback keeper.
"It was an honor to be selected to play in the all-star game. It was a great honor to be given the MVP award after the game. The team I had was fantastic and I couldn't have done it without them," Smith said.
Murrieta Valley Nighthawk defensive lineman Michael Payne was also honored to be part of it.
“I am grateful for football and how it has made me who I am today," Payne said.
The annual game was developed by The SPORT Foundation and benefits many youth programs. For 30 years, the Foundation has been treating thousands of athlete injuries in the Inland Empire.
Proceeds from the game have resulted in more than $130,000 in scholarships for student athletes from the Inland Empire.
This year, scholarship recipients were Avery Richardson of King on the Riverside County team and Steven Best of Yucaipa on the San Bernardino County team.
The game was presented by The Press-Enterprise newspaper and Community Medical Group of Riverside.