The North, including players from Danville, Boyle County and Mercer County, avoided its first-ever loss in the four-year series it now leads 3-0-1 by coming up with interceptions at key times. The most important came with 1 minute, 19 seconds to play.
The South, which included players from Casey, Garrard and Lincoln counties, had scored on its previous series and got a two-point conversion to draw within 10-8. The South took over on its own 20-yard line after the North's field goal attempt went wide right.
South quarterback Neal Tucker of Somerset completed a 12-yard pass to Garrard's Chris Clark, and the North was also flagged for roughing the passer. That moved the South up to the 47, needing just to reach field goal territory to win the game.
However, Tucker's next pass was tipped by a leaping Joe Estes of Pulaski Southwestern and intercepted by the North's John Keene of Western Hills. The North picked up one more first down, then ran out the clock for the win.
"Our defense had been strong all night, so I wasn't too concerned that we could stop them," North coach Donny Walker of Franklin County said. "Keene was in the right place at the right time. That was huge right there."
"The pass was just a little in front of him and it just bounced off his hands," Turner said. "There was no problem with the effort. If he could have knocked it down, he would have. He was coming back to get it, but the cornerback just made a nice play."
Clark led the South in receiving, snagging five passes for 74 yards. No one else on the team had more than one reception.
Officials asked players to drop the trash-talking
The close game could explain some of the emotions. Several times players had to be separated, and officials told each team at the end of the third quarter to drop the trash-talking and focus on the game.
That was two plays after Danville's Phillip Dunn, playing for the North, laid out the South's Estes and the two got up face mask-to-face mask.
But Turner said that is just the will to win.
"Those are very competitive young men," said Turner, the coach at Madison Central. "The fans sometimes may not understand, but it's all in fun.
"You could tell when the game was over because they were all hugging and high-fiving and half of them know each other. That's the way it should be. It should be competitive."
Dunn had the other key interception for the North, picking off a pass from Tucker at the South 20 that was intended for Estes early in the third quarter.
"Our defense just played super," Walker said. "Phillip, especially, just breaks on the ball so well."
Dunn and Clark were named the most valuable players for their respective teams.
Coleman rushed for 154 yards
Wes Coleman paced everyone, leading the North offense with 154 yards rushing on 20 attempts. He had four runs of at least 20 yards each and finished the first half with 105 yards rushing.
"It was very important for us (to start off well)," Coleman said. "At East Jessamine, if we're not on top, we kind of play bad. It was good for us to get on top because then we had the upper hand."
"He's fast, and he's just so strong," Walker said. "He's so low to the ground and his balance is so good that he's just really really tough to take down."
The North finished with 294 yards, including 261 rushing. Keene added 57 yards rushing on seven carries. East Jessamine quarterback Patrick Hunt completed three of 11 passes for 32 yards, including a 10-yard pass to Boyle's Zach Cooley.
Coleman scored the North's only touchdown, on a 5-yard run in the first quarter. Mercer County's Jason Chadwick kicked the extra point, and Western Hills' Tyler Toncray added a 25-yard field goal in the second quarter to give the North a 10-0 lead.
That lasted until the fourth quarter, when Tucker's 1-yard run and Steven Stunson's two-point conversion run cut the lead to 10-8.
Tucker finished with 159 yards passing, completing 10 of 21 passes. The South rushed for just 48 yards rushing for a total of 207.
"We had a great quarterback who threw the ball where we wanted it," Clark said. "We just couldn't finish it off."