The East offense shook off a slow start with a pair of touchdowns in a less than three minute span to pull away for a 20-3 win over the West during the annual N.C. Coaches Association East-West All-Star high school football game Wednesday night.
The Southern Nash combo of quarterback Zack Foster and receiver Jaquay Mitchell connected on a 66-yard scoring pass with 9 minutes, 30 seconds to play. And after a big punt return by Havelock’s Trey Owens to the West 13-yard-line, Rocky Mount’s Nick Bynum scored on a 5-yard run.
The fourth quarter surge pushed the East’s unbeaten streak in the series to three games. The West, which still leads the series 38-28-2, had its last win in 2013.
Mitchell was named the game’s offensive MVP with three receptions covering 88 yards. The game featured all of the trappings of All-Star football: big penalties, fumbles, missed connections on shotgun snaps and a lack of cohesive offensive production.
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East defense shines
Although the West offense outgained the East by six yards (176-170), the East gave up just three points on the night. The East secondary featured Tyler Thomas of Wake Forest, Deandre Blevins of West Johnston and Jaleel Scroggins of Southern Durham.
Blevins had a late interception on the only ball the West quarterbacks threw his way all night.
“Our team tackled well. We swarmed to the ball and made plays,” Blevins said. “I knew they were going to go deep in the situation (on my interception), so the receiver tried to hit me with a pump-and-go but I was there.”
Lineman R-Kel Vera of Fayetteville’s Jack Britt High was the game’s defensive MVP with six tackles, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble.
The defensive line included Cary’s Rod Perry III, Beddingfield’s Amorris Liles and J.H. Rose’s Rakym Chapman. Perry, the state 4A heavyweight wrestling champ, had four tackles, all for losses, and a forced fumble. Scroggins finished with five tackles.
Heavy local coaching influence
The game featured four coaches from the area. East head coach Tom Nelson is the head coach at Fike (and a former head coach at North Johnston and Beddingfield). East assistant coach Don Andrews, a former Corinth Holders coach who will assist at Princeton High School this coming season, coached the defensive backs.
“It was the most amazing experience I’ve had in 36 years of coaching,” Andrews said of the week. “We heard stories about how dealing with the players here might be, but the guys were outstanding all week. It was ‘Yes sir, no sir’ from the beginning. They were as great off of the field as they were off of it.”
The West staff included former Northwood coach Bill Hall and Jordan-Matthews’ Marty Scotten.
Kickers handled all of the early scoring
The first half was mainly a showcase for the kickers — Pinecrest’s Kyle Corbett and Joseph Bruner of Concord’s Jay M. Robinson. Corbett hit two field goals (41 and 37 yards) and bounced a 47-yarder off of the top of one of the uprights that would have probably been good from 65.
Bruner opened the game’s scoring with a 38-yarder after the only exciting play from scrimmage from the first 24 minutes: a 55-yard flea flicker connection between West quarterback Kacey Otto (West Rowan) and Ron Hunt (Southern Guilford).
Otherwise it was mainly a battle of high snaps on offense, fumbles and personal foul penalties for late hits.
The East offensive line had a heavy Triangle-area flavor with Clayton’s Brooks Verona, Panther Creek’s Isaac Williams, Cleveland’s Zach Jacobs and tight end Tre Cogdell of Greenville’s D.H. Conley.
Want an East win? Find a ‘JoCo’ coach
Wednesday night’s win continued a string of East victories that featured a coach with Johnston County ties on the sideline. Since 2007, every East win has had a coach from Johnston County.
Former Smithfield-Selma head coach Joe McCullen was the head coach in 2007; Anthony Barbour, a former coach at (head) SSS and Clayton (assistant) and current head coach at Jordan, was on the staff in 2008.
Former Princeton head coach Russell Williamson was on the staff in the 2012 win. And current West Johnston and former East Wake head coach Jimmy Williams was on the winning staff in 2009 and was the head coach of last year’s wining team.
Chatham influence on West squad
To keep a 50-50 split between the East and West squad, players from Chatham County schools were on the West squad. Northwood running back Montel Goods had the highest average per rush attempt among the West backs but finished with just 11 yards on five carries.
Jordan-Matthews receiver Rahim Mateen had one catch for three years.