Wednesday, June 26, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Local players shine in last prep matchup

Leader sportswriter

CONWAY – Five local athletes took part in Friday’s highly-competitive Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star football game, which ended in dramatic fashion as the West team came from behind to beat the East 16-13 at the University of Central Arkansas’ Estes Stadium.

The East had the opportunity to put the game away late leading 13-9 with the ball at the West 2-yard line on third down. However, running back Martin Stafford of Jonesboro was stopped at the 1-yard line on third down and a botched snap on fourth down resulted in an 11-yard loss that gave the ball back to the West with 3:17 remaining.

The West then went 89 yards in 12 plays that ended with Lucas Reed of El Dorado connecting with Vincent Love of Hope on a 21-yard touchdown pass with 27 seconds remaining. The extra point set the final score.

The East team had an opportunity to tie the game on a last-second 52-yard field goal attempt by Lane Campbell of Jonesboro Westside, but the kick was short and wide left to give the West team the victory.

Clayton Fields of Carlisle started the game at left guard for the East team and was pleased to take part in one more high-school football game before next season, where he will continue his football career at Harding University.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Fields said. “Like the coaches said, there’s 40,000 Arkansas high-school football players and there’s 90 here that are pretty much all going to play in college. It’s a great opportunity and we’re all having fun with it.”

Fields was the only local athlete to start on the offensive side of the ball for the East team. On the defensive side, North Little Rock’s Gary Vines started at the safety position and Gerald Watson, also of North Little Rock, started at defensive tackle.

Vines and Watson both made an impact on the game early, but Watson made the most of his time in the first quarter as he forced a fumble that resulted in a turnover while also adding two sacks to the stat column.

“It felt great,” Watson said about the experience. “This was just an exhibition, but everybody out here was trying to bring it and win this game.”

Watson, who will play college football at Ouachita Baptist University in the fall, finished with two sacks and four tackles. His teammate, Vines, finished the game with five tackles.

“I missed football,” Vines said. “It was fun because everyone up here is good and there isn’t anyone that you’re just better than. So it was fun to learn stuff from people that play different positions, not just your position. It’s been fun for me as I get ready to go off to college.”

Vines will play his college ball at Henderson State University while fellow East and former NLR teammate Deonte Pearson plans to play at Missouri State University. Pearson saw the field at his defensive tackle position for the first time in the second quarter of Friday’s contest, but his play during that time allowed him more playing time throughout the second half.

In the second quarter, Pearson recovered a costly West fumble that gave the East squad excellent field position. Pearson dove on the ball as it hit the unorthodox purple and gray turf, but said he initially wanted to scoop it up and try and score.

“At first I was thinking scoop and score because I’ve been telling coach all week if I see it I’m going to scoop and score,” Pearson said. “But in that certain situation there was too many people that were too close and I didn’t want to risk it. So I just jumped on it and I was glad I got it because it was a big turnaround in our comeback.”

Chris Hart of Carlisle mostly saw the field in the second quarter at the cornerback position, but played all four quarters on special teams. Instead of football, Hart will play baseball at the next level for Arkansas Baptist University, but said it was nice to put on the pads one last time.

“It’s been a great experience,” Hart said. “To get to play with some of the players from North Little Rock and 7A has been awesome. It’s been fun all week meeting these guys and playing with them.”