Memphis University School sophomores Evan Smith, a running back, and Steven Regis, a quarterback, stood on Hull-Dobbs Field watching the 13th annual AutoZone Liberty Bowl High School All-Star football game last Saturday when Smith became a prophet.
Predicting a play that put the star in all-star — Blue team running back Cameron Sanders running for a 91-yard touchdown — Smith turned to Regis and said, “I told you. I called it.”
The touchdown by Sanders, of CBHS, started the momentum-wheel in motion for the Blue, slicing a 23-6 deficit to 23-13, and eventually turned into a 45-39 Blue victory at MUS.
Sanders, who has committed to play at Southeast Missouri State University, was named Most Valuable Player. He also had a big play on defense, intercepting a pass on his 10-yard line. “You’ve just got to get it,” he said.
The Blue got their third straight victory, giving them a 7-6 series lead. Blue won 58-49 in 2012 and 43-38 last year.
“It was a very exciting game that I think both teams took very seriously,” said Red team running back Colton Neel, of MUS, who was a finalist for Tennessee’s Mr. Football-Back in Division 2-AA this season.
What surprised Red wide receiver Tyler Currie, of St. Benedict, was “all the big hits and plays and how neither team really panicked despite turnovers.”
Blue linebacker Patrick Macon, of Millington, made a game-saving interception in the fourth quarter. Gabriel Scott, of Trezevant had a first quarter interception. Red defensive back Tracy James, of Hillcrest, recovered a fumble at the Blue 31-yard line that led to a 20-6 Red lead. Blue defensive back Sean Williams, who has committed to play at Navy, snagged an interception that helped the Blue later score a touchdown that sliced the lead to 23-20. His interception return for a touchdown gave the Blue a 32-26 lead that was never lost.
Austin Hall of Collierville, a defensive back for the Blue, had an interception that led to a TD and a tie, 26-26, in the third quarter. Blue linebacker Jonathan Mabone, of Arlington who was co-Defensive Player of the Year in District 14-AAA, recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter. Joey Magnifico, a Red linebacker from St. Benedict, blocked a 44-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
“Our defense glued together in just one week,” said Magnifico, who had scored 16 touchdowns for St. Benedict this season and had 76 tackles on the year, 13 for loss, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. He also rushed for 406 yards on 68 carries and had 37 receptions for 495 yards. He was region MVP and had to make a choice whether he was going to play in the Toyota East v. West All-Star game which he had also been invited to. That game was the night before the Memphis all-star game.
“It was different just playing defense but I liked it. It doesn’t matter what side I play. As long as I’m playing I’m fine.”
Both offenses had big plays. Red quarterback Cedric Crawford, the Melrose quarterback who led Shelby-Metro in passing with 2,752 yards and 36 touchdowns, threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Tony Pollard, a Melrose wide receiver, in the first quarter. Blue running back Earl Harrison, Shelby-Metro’s top rusher with 1,594 yards and scored 22 touchdowns for Ridgeway, scored on a 59-yard touchdown.
Neel, who rushed for 1,382 yards on 226 carries and scored 22 rushing touchdowns this season and had 62 for his career, scored a first quarter touchdown, and kickoff return yards that set up a 40-yard Red field goal by Matthew Smith of Northpoint Christian, in the second quarter.
Red team quarterback Bobby Downing, of FACS, had excellent passes to Jonathan Johnson of Melrose and to Terry Wright of White Station. Johnson was Shelby-Metro’s leading receiver with 1,281 yards and 61 receptions. Blue quarterback Jonathan Bowlan, of Bartlett, scored on a quarterback sneak and also threw a 19-yard touchdown Kristian Wilkerson, of Craigmont.
Bolton’s Braylon Porter, a running back for the Blue team who had rushed for 1,100 yards this season, had authoritative rushes. “The All-Star game was a chance for me to compete against others that had the same skill level as I did,” he said. “It also lets me know where I stand as a football player.”
But the game turned on turnovers. “I think the turning point is when we came back from halftime and had two turnovers back-to-back,” said Magnifico.
Bowlan agreed. “The turning point of the game was after halftime, our defense came out and got two turnovers in back-to-back drives.”
The Blue team trailed 26-20 at the half. After Hall intercepted in the third quarter at the 21-yard line, Bowlan threw the touchdown pass to Wilkerson to tie the game at 26-26. Williams’ interception then put the Blue team on top with his touchdown.
Said Hall, a free safety for Collierville who this season had 21 assisted tackles, 27 solos, five tackles for loss, a sack, 10 pass break-ups and six interceptions, “Our defense stepped up big time. We created turnovers and gave our offense chances and they executed big-time.” Hall was the Dragon’s MVP Defensive Player of the Year.
Robby Donaldson, First Assembly Christian School head coach, was head coach of the Red Team. Craigmont head coach Cecil Van Hooks was the Blue team head coach.
During the contest, which had 15 minutes for a quarter instead of 12, the Red took a 6-0 lead on Pollard’s touchdown reception from Crawford with 9:55 left in the first quarter. Smith made it 7-0.
Harrison answered with his 59-yard touchdown that cut the lead to 7-6. With 4.47 speed, Harrison said of his touchdown, “Coming out here to have some fun.”
Houston quarterback Jared Schmidt got the Red team down the field with passes to Central’s Deddrick Thomas, a Mississippi State commit. Neel scored a 2-yard touchdown run and the Red led 13-6 with 4:57 left.
A 1-yard run by Kirby’s Michael Mason extended the Red’s lead to 20-6 with 2:43 left in the first quarter.
The Blue got to the Red 18 on a 47-yard kickoff return by Sanders and a 19-yard run by Harrison. The drive was stopped when Kendrick Gipson of Southwind recovered a fumble by Ridgeway and Blue quarterback Braxton Conard.
Smith’s 33-yard field goal gave the Red a 23-6 lead with 10:51 left in the second quarter before Sanders scored his 91-yard run. Millington’s Luke Bell kicked his first PAT of the game and the Blue trailed 23-13.
Craigmont quarterback Andew McIntyre threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Wilkerson after Hall’s interception and the Blue trailed 23-20 with 6:23 left in the second quarter.
Fueled by runs by Neel, Smith kicked his 40-yard field goal with 2:50 left in the first half giving the Red a 26=20 lead.
Hall’s interception at the Red 21-yard line led to Bowlan’s TD pass to Wilkerson. The game was tied at 26 early in the third quarter. Then Williams’ interception gave the Blue its 33-26 lead after he returned it 33 yards. Williams, who had 29 solo tackles, 23 assisted tackles, three interceptions, 14 pass break-ups during the season at Cordova, also forced a fumble for the Blue team.
Bowlan’s 4-yard touchdown run put the Blue on top 39-26 with 5:22 left in the third quarter after the Blue drove 86 yards. A pass from Bowlan to Jackson Boring of Arlington, another pass from Bowlan to Wilkerson and runs by Porter sparked the drive.
The Red pulled to within 39-32 on Johnson’s 84-yard touchdown run. Ridgeway’s Marquette Murdock caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Conard with 8 seconds left in the third quarter for a 45-32 Blue lead.
Tony Pollard, of Melrose, caught a 9-yard pass from Crawford and the Red was within six points, 45-39, after Smith kicked the PAT.
“We persevered by continuing to score and holding down their offense,” said Porter.
“It’s a good feeling is what it is,” said Boring of being teammates with players that had been opponents.
Schmidt called the game “one of the best experiences of football I was ever fortunate to have. It kind of gave me a taste of what college would be like. It was fun making new friends and sharing what my life is about. It’s crazy because in a week, I feel like I knew some people for years.”
Schmidt had some great experiences this season. He was District 15-AAA Co-Offensive Player of the Year and completed 130 of 220 passes for 2,041 yards with 21 touchdowns. He rushed for 703 yards on 106 carries and scored nine touchdowns. He paced a Mustang team that averaged 443 yards per game, the most in Shelby Metro, and 37.8 points per game.
For Currie, the game meant competing with “the top guys in the city and showcasing my talent.” Currie had 69 receptions for 921 yards and eight touchdowns during the season.
Hall agreed with Currie. “Playing with some of the best players around the city was a great experience and it was a blast. I met some new guys and became closer to some guys that I played against, like the Ridgeway kids. Overall it was a great experience and it will be remembered.”
Bowlan completed 96 of 222 passes for 1,441 yards and 15 touchdowns this season and rushed for 566 yards and scored eight touchdowns. He was District 14-AAA Offensive Player of the Year. The game added to the merit of the season.
“What I got from the game was a very exciting and enjoyable experience that I will never forget. What surprised me most was how well everybody got along on both sides of the ball and how close I got with my teammates throughout the week of practice,” he said.
Neel and Bowlan have signed to play baseball at the University of Memphis.
Said Neel of the all-star game, “I was teammates with a lot of guys from other teams that I had played. It was fun to get to play with those guys and learn how they had been taught to play the game. The thing that meant most to me was all these players from different parts of the city from different backgrounds got to play with each other and really mesh together. We bonded throughout the week and really grew close to each other.”
The Red Team All-Stars are coaches Robby Donaldson (FACS), Teran Conley (FACS), Will Hudgens (Houston), Joey Love (FACS), Joe Rocconi (White Station), Greg Wallace (Northpoint) and Eddie Woods (Melrose); players Joshua McMilon (Whitehaven), Jonathan Johnson (Melrose), Joey Magnifico (St. Benedict), Kevin Hall (Melrose), Tony Pollard (Melrose), Terry Wright (White Station), Cedric Crawford (Melrose), Kyland Tate (East), Anfernee Alexander (Oakhaven), Andre Jones (Central), Jared Schmidt (Houston), Stonie Fitzgerald (Wooddale), Jack Evans (FACS), Tyler Currie (St. Benedict), Bobby Downing (FACS), Zo’Ron Frye (White Station), Tomadreus Trezevant (Mitchell), Carliss Settles (Harding), Ladraius Jordan (St. Benedict), Colton Neel (MUS) Calvin Robinson (Hamilton), Darian McGhee (White Station), Matthew Smith (Northpoint), Prentiss Sumerall (Westwood), Tracy Grant (Sheffield), Tracy James (Hillcrest), Maleik Gatewood (MUS), Peyton Jones (MUS), Drw Rutland (FACS), Javonta Williams (MAHS), Evan Gregory (White Station), Miles Wallace (White Station), Vincent Williams (Central), Mason Piper (Houston), Donald Cofield (Whitehaven), Brytain Peddy (Munford), Rhodes White (Lausanne), Brant Newman (MUS), Drew Richmond (MUS), Michael Mason (Kirby), Willie Saulsberry (Fairley) and Vasco Curry (East).
The Blue Team All-Stars are coaches Cecil VanHooks (Craigmont), David Carter (St. George’s), Carl Coleman (Manassas), Anthony Jones (Cordova), Mike O’Neill (Collierville), Scott Vogel (CBHS) and Teli White (Trezevant); players Jackson Boring (Arlington), DeVedrick Chaney (Kingsbury), Tito Hunter (Trezevant), Kristian Wilkerson (Craigmont), Darius Threlkeld (Craigmont), Johnathan Mabone (Arlington), Braxton Conard (Ridgeway), Greg Harvey (Cordova), Jamal Jones (Trezevant), Luke Bell (Millington), Gabriel Scott (Trezevant), Andrew McIntyre (Craigmont), Lorenzo Cantu (St. George’s), Cameron Sanders (CBHS), Antonio Turner (Manassas), Jonathan Bowlan (Bartlett), Melvin Harris Rossville), Logan Stewart (Tipton-Rosemark), Cameron Doyle (Collierville), Taylor Putt (Fayette Academy), Austin Hall (Collierville), Devon Neal (Brighton), Braylon Porter (Bolton), Sean Williams (Cordova), Clay Crenshaw (St. George’s), Earl Harrison (Ridgeway), Jona Ligon (Germantown), Tadarius Davis (Manassas), Patrick Macon (Millington), Desmond Hawkins (Craigmont), Kevin Washington (MLK Prep), Elontae Bateman (Ridgeway), Nicholas Clay (Trezevant), Khilon Wright (CBHS), Jude Hydrick (Briarcrest), Carlos Mathis (Manassas), Angelo Pirtle (Millington), Camren Jones (Ridgeway), Yousef Khulfan (Douglass), Larry Palm (Ridgeway), Marquette Murdock (Ridgeway), Carson White (Collierville) and Terry Fulte (Ridgeway).
Trezevant defensive back Gabriel Scott makes an interception for the Blue Team in the 13th annual AutoZone Liberty Bowl High School All-Star football game. Collierville was well represented in the annual game, with Dragon Head Coach Mike O’Neill and players Cameron Doyle, Austin Hall and Carson White participating in the event.