A wildly productive final two drives salvaged a 10-all tie for the West All-Stars Wednesday night in the 66th annual N.C. Coaches Association East-West All-Star Football game.
After being dominated by the East defense for much of the night (compiling just 53 yards through the first 54 minutes of play), the West picked up its first points of the night via a 5-yard touchdown run Kenneth Purvis, then held the East’s double-wing offense on fourth down at the West 20-yard-line.
Quarterback McKinley Brown of Pisgah scrambled around the pocket before finding open receivers and moving the ball to the East 14 with 4 seconds to play. That set up a 31-yard Luke Hayek field goal as time expired, sending the game to an even finish for just the second time. (The first tie, a scoreless one, came back in 1962.)
“We just didn’t finish a couple of drives and gave them a chance,” said East coach and Southern Nash coach Brian Foster. “But these kids did a great job A lot of them have never played anything like what we did on offense and they picked it right up.”
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The East ran a double-wing attack and the old style run-heavy approach worked well enough. But it was a pass that set up the series of plays that helped the East take a 10-point lead into the third quarter.
A play-action pass that got Hope Mills South View tight end Troy Cain wide open for a 25-yard gain (from Deon Lavender) set up Clayton product Nick Christiansen’s second-quarter field goal from 31 yards out with 7:14 to play in the half.
Christiansen then took advantage of the West’s kick return spacing on the ensuing kick off.
“I saw that they were really splitting their two deep return guys,” the Miles College (Ala.) recruit said. “So I just tried to pop it up deep between them right down the middle.”
Christiansen drove the kick to the 1-yard-line where the West’s Phil Taylor fielded the ball. Great coverage led by Demetri Sheridan of Lumberton – the game’s defensive MVP – kept Taylor pinned inside of the 5 and he lost control of the ball. The East’s Dijon Kenan of Wallace-Rose Hill covered it at the 4-yard line.
On the next play, Richmond County back Diquon Cox darted in through the left side for the touchdown. Christiansen followed with the extra point for a 10-0 lead, just 10 seconds after the game was scoreless.
Cox was the game’s offensive MVP with a game-high 82 yards rushing on 15 carries.
Western Harnett fullback Laron Gilchrist played a key role in the attack, helping blow open holes for Cox and the rest of the East runners. Two Cap Eight linemen – Chris Pendergraft of Leesville Road and Tyler Newhouse of Wake Forest – also helped spark the East offensive push.
The West offense tried to use speedy Raquan Jones of Eastern Guilford on deep pass patterns, but all three attempts to find a big play fell incomplete against a secondary that included Fuquay-Varina’s Tyler Williams and Leesville Road’s Malcolm Hitchcock.
Southeast Raleigh product David Onyiego, Panther Creek linebacker Matt Powell and East Chapel Hill defensive lineman Chris Pendergraft helped make sure the West’s rushing attack never really got going. The West had just 87 yards rushing.
Powell was second on the East squad in tackles with seven, while Alston contributed two tackles and Onyiego and Williams were in on one.
Christiansen averaged 35.4 yards a punt and dropped two of those inside of the 20-yard-line.