CONWAY — The 58th annual Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star football game came down to the wire Friday night at Estes Stadium.
The West’s Vincent Love of Hope caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from El Dorado’s Lucas Reed with 27 seconds remaining to give them a 16-13 win. The East drove to the West’s 35-yard line, but Lane Campbell of Jonesboro Westside missed a 52-yard field goal as time expired.
The East looked set to seal the win with the ball on the West’s 2-yard line and three chances to punch it in. However, the West stood strong keeping the game MVP Martin Stafford of Jonesboro out of the end zone on second and third down and forcing a fumble on fourth down to set up the winning drive.
Pine Bluff’s Walter Ashley started the game for the West. Prior to the game, it was not known whether or not Ashley, who will attend Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the fall, was even going to play.
Ashley lined up at wide receiver and did not rush the ball at all in the game. He did finish with a game-high six catches for 37 yards.
Ashley also returned a punt for two yards, and was set to return a kickoff but his foot was in the end zone when he caught the ball resulting in a touchback.
Ashley was targeted four times on long passes, but three were broken up and one was intercepted. He did come up big on the West’s winning drive, though, catching three passes for 27 yards.
With Ashley’s sub-par evening and Stuttgart’s Dontrell Brown not playing, Southeast Arkansas’ place to shine was on the defensive side of the ball.
White Hall’s Joseph Stewart and Pine Bluff’s Kelvin Sergeant both had five tackles for the West. Both played well even if they were caught off-guard by the East’s game plan.
“We thought they were going to pass a lot, because it’s a Harding Academy offense,” Stewart said. “But they split it pretty evenly (between rushing and passing) and that made it hard to play against.”
The defenses dominated the game, but it wasn’t easy.
“They had some huge tight ends that were hard to wrap up,” Stewart said of the East squad. “Their offensive line was opening up some big holes for the running backs, too, which made it hard to make open-field tackles.”
For the East, Stuttgart’s Waymon Johnson had six tackles (one for loss), McGehee’s Steven King had four tackles (three for loss) and a sack, and Dumas’ Malachi Pointer had four tackles (one for loss).
Despite the loss, King was deservingly proud of his performance.
“It was a fun experience,” King said. “It let me know I can play with the best of the best in the state of Arkansas.”
King, who went to a 3A school, was the best player on the field for much of the second quarter.
“Well, I’m not used to sitting,” King said about coming off the bench. “I just wanted to come in and make my presence felt, because the coaches all week were talking about ‘flying to the ball.’”
The West was able to pull off the win despite being outgained in the air (230 yards to 180) and on the ground (145-62).
The East opened the scoring when Will Duncan of Little Rock Christian latched onto a 27-yard pass from Sterling Stowers of Highland to put his team ahead 6-0.
In the final minute of the first quarter, the West cut the deficit in half with a 40-yard field goal from Nick DeLeon of Prairie Grove.
Just before halftime, the West grabbed the lead when Malachi McGee of Mena pulled in a touchdown pass from Reed.
A 2-yard touchdown run by Rashaad Earls of Little Rock Parkview gave the East a 13-9 lead heading into the fourth quarter.