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The CONADEIP All-Stars produced a stunning and unlikely comeback to overturn a 24-point deficit and dramatically win the 20th annual Tazón De Estrellas (Bowl of the Stars) by a score of 28-24 in Tijuana.

Game recap below; Watch the full game video here:

Team Stars & Stripes looked to be cruising to victory when quarterback Chase Burton (Franklin College) tossed his second touchdown pass of the day, a 26-yard connection with William Woods (John Carroll University), for a 24-0 lead midway through the third quarter.

But when the Americans were content to punt away possession and force the hosts to chase the game, the momentum swung unexpectedly.

The CONADEIP All-Stars responded with a steady drive directed by quarterback Diego Ruiz which resulted in the Mexicans’ first touchdown of the day to close out the third quarter. Just when the quest for points looked to have stalled nine yards from pay dirt, Carlos Olvera made an impressive diving catch in the end zone from Ruiz. Then Kevin Correa muscled his way in for a two-point conversion to reduce the deficit to 16 points at 24-8.

The All-Stars were now firing on all cylinders and drove from deep in their own half to the U.S. 35 and were helped into the red zone by an unsportsmanlike penalty. MVP Correa, who rushed 23 times for 187 yards, then ate up eight yards and Ruiz (24 of 32 for 199 yards, 3 TDs, 1 int) hit a wide-open Carlos Olvera in the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown. The two-point pass attempt bounced off the hand of a receiver and the hosts trailed 24-14

Team Stars & Stripes were unable to punch in what would have been the game-winning touchdown, and in reply, the shaky deficit was cut to only four points when a pinpoint 32-yard pass over the middle to Robin Gonzalez made it 24-20, though still in favor of the Americans. An Enrique Yenny extra point meant that if CONADEIP could regain possession, a field goal would force overtime.

The signs were ominous for Team Stars & Stripes when a punt took bad bounce to remain in U.S. territory and the Mexicans went to a hurry-up offense in search of tying the game. Olvera made a superb catch at the 23-yard mark and Correa rushed down to the six-yard line as the hosts could sense victory.

Correa gained three more yards and was then fittingly handed the ball again to burst in for the decisive touchdown to spark wild celebrations at the Margarita Aztiazarán de Fimbres Stadium at CETYS University, which was the scene of a dramatic one-point American victory two years ago.

A successful extra point meant Team Stars & Stripes had only 1:05 to find the end zone themselves, but a swarming Mexican defense had other ideas and preserved the famous victory.

In the loss, Burton completed 36 of 55 pass attempts for 353 yards and 2 touchdowns, and was sacked 3 times and intercepted once. Sam Markham (Central College) caught 11 passes for 166 yards, while Woods had 98 yards and 2 touchdowns from 11 catches. Garrett Schaller (Siena Heights University) rushed 7 times for 25 yards and a touchdown.

“When we were fresh, we were in complete control of the game,” said head coach Don De Waard. “Playing without a kicker and with only 39 guys really put us at a disadvantage. We had a couple of linemen get injured and just ran out of gas in the fourth quarter. I’m so proud of how hard our guys played and how hard we battled until the end. Mexico has very good playmakers and once we got tired the game turned.”

The late fireworks came in contrast to a relatively tame first half. The contest burst into life late in the second quarter when the Americans scored two touchdowns inside the final two and a half minutes.

A scoreless first quarter had seen both teams punt away possession and Team Stars & Stripes were denied when quarterback Burton overthrew a receiver in the end zone on fourth down.

The hosts missed a 32-yard field goal early in the second period and the deadlock was finally broken two possessions later. Burton twice hit Markham for gains of 11 and 17 yards, while Woods reeled in a 12-yard catch to take the ball down to the Mexico one-yard mark. After a short loss, Schaller’s fourth carry of the drive broke the plane from two yards out and the Americans led 6-0 with the extra point sailing wide.

The passing of Ruiz and constant rushing threat of Correa proved a threat throughout the half, but U.S. defense stepped up with a Tim Finucane (Lake Forest College) 10-yard sack ending a promising possession at the 35-yard mark.

Do De Waard’s team was clinical in reply as Burton rushed 17 yards then found Markham, Braden Meints (Simpson College) and Gabe Greco (Grove City College) for first downs before a 12-yard connection with Woods opened up a 12-point lead. The resulting extra point kick was tipped and fell short.

Fifty seconds remained for a Mexican offense that had threatened to produce to drive from the 35, but on Ruiz’s first pass attempt, Alex Raynor (Denison University) came up with an interception and raced 40 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown and a dramatic 18-0 lead. Burton’s two-point pass attempt failed, but the Americans were content to take the advantage into the locker room at the break.

At that point, nobody could have foreseen the fireworks that would light up the final quarter.