A.J. Hotchkins steps up for the South at the Les Schwab Bowl

by: DAN BROOD - RUNNING STRONG -- Tigard's A.J. Hotchkins knocks down a North defender as he gains yardage in Saturday's Les Schwab Bowl. Hotchkins, who rushed for 61 yards in the contest, was named the South team's Back of the Game. HILLSBORO — Winning isn’t everything.

There are other aspects that make something special.

Such as playing hard, battling against the best, and finding new friends in former foes.

That was the case for a trio of area high school football standouts — Nick Duron and A.J. Hotchkins of Tigard and Tualatin’s James Porter — who played in the 67th Les Schwab Bowl. The all-star football game, featuring many of the top graduating Class 5A and Class 6A seniors from around the state, was held Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium.

“This was pretty cool,” said Hotchkins, who is a 2014 Tigard High School graduate. “I didn’t know what to expect.”

Duron, Hotchkins and Porter all played for the South team, which was edged 31-21 by the North squad in Saturday’s game.

But the game, and the week leading up to it, was more than just about the final score.

“The week was awesome,” said Porter, a 2014 Tualatin graduate who started at defensive tackle for the South team. “I didn’t expect to get so close with the guys on the team. I even stomped out some feuds with Tigard. It was a fun week, for sure.”

“We all are good friends now,” Hotchkins said. “I’ll probably keep in touch with these guys.”

Hotchkins, the 6-foot, 235-pound powerhouse from Tigard, saw a lot of work in Saturday’s all-star game. On offense, he turned out to be the featured running back for the South team — a different role from when he played fullback for the Tigers — and he seemed to excel in that role.

For the game, Hotchkins led the South team with 61 rushing yards on 14 carries. He also had a pair of receptions. On defense, Hotchkins saw some action at both defensive end and at linebacker for the South, coming up with a pair of solo tackles.

For his efforts, Hotchkins was named the South team’s Back of the DAN BROOD - BATTLING -- Tigard's Nick Duron (right) battles against Barlow's Garrett Stauffer during Saturday's Les Schwab Bowl.

“That meant a lot to me,” Hotchkins said. “It was my last game in high school, and I wanted to finish up strong.”

Duron saw action at both tight end and defensive end for the South. On defense, Duron had a tackle for a loss, bringing down Central Catholic’s Ryan Nall for a 2-yard loss with 1 minute and 41 seconds left to play in the second quarter.

As for the game, the South team took a 14-10 lead when defensive lineman Hunter Hermansen of North Medford scooped up a North fumble and ran 58 yards for a TD with 4:45 left in the first half.

The North answered back with a 6-yard touchdown run by quarterback Aiden Wilder, of Central Catholic, with 17 seconds left in the half, giving the North a 17-14 lead at the intermission.

In the second half, the North got a 13-yard touchdown run from Clackamas’ Dan Sherill and a 35-yard interception return for a score by Aloha’s Maurice McSwain to wrap up its 31-21 win, and ignite a spirited victory celebration.

“It came down to the end,” Hotchkins said. “We just had a few mistakes. But it was really fun, and it was hard. I’m going to feel this tomorrow.”

“It was pretty good,” Porter said. “I tried to go out there and hit hard.”

The three area players will soon embark on their college football careers.

by: DAN BROOD - READY TO GO -- Tualatin High School graduate Jason Porter (center), playing at defensive tackle for the South team, gets ready to make a play in Saturday's Les Schwab Bowl. Duron and Porter will both be playing college football at Western Oregon University in Monmouth.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Porter said. “I got to meet some of the other guys who will be going there.”

Hotchkins took a bit of a roundabout path that will end up taking him to the University of Wyoming.

“I absolutely am looking forward to that,” said Hotchkins, who added that the Cowboys will be looking for him to play at linebacker. “And this week absolutely was a good way to get going into that.”

Wilder was named the game’s Most Valuable Player of Saturday’s Les Schwab Bowl.

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