The Pine Bluff Zebra football team reached the 6A state championship in December in many ways due to the leadership and talent of their seniors.
Dasmine Johnson was surprisingly the only one of those seniors selected to play in the Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star Game. Johnson, though, said he would be representing all of his teammates in the game, which will be played at 7 p.m. Friday at Central Arkansas’ Estes Stadium in Conway.
“It will be a great experience to play with other really great seniors from other schools,” Johnson said. “It’s a big honor, because I was the only one that got picked to represent Pine Bluff.
“It surprised me, too.”
Johnson said being picked by coaches across the state was incredibly humbling and hoped he would be able to perform well for himself and his former teammates.
“It’s probably the greatest thing that ever happened to me,” he said of being selected. “I never knew I’d be in an all-star game getting to represent the Z’s.”
Johnson’s teammate this week on the West squad Joshua Harris of Watson Chapel was equally excited to be participating in the all-star game.
“I’m just honored to play in it,” he said. “You get to showcase your talent against the best players in Arkansas. …
“It’s a good week to get to finish my high school career.”
Unlike Johnson, Harris won’t be the only Wildcat representing Chapel come Friday night.
“It’s kind of good, because I’ll be up there with Devonte Battles,” Harris said of representing his school. “It’s a good opportunity for us. …
“It’s good for our school to have two players competing with the best of the best.”
That best of the best includes other local players on both squads.
Austin Berry and Kaseem Smith of White Hall will join Johnson, Harris and Battles on the West team. Joshua Liddell and Nicholas Woodfork from Dollarway were selected to represent the East, along with Drake Jones and Kendrick Newton from Warren and Tristan Ward of Rison. Liddell, who signed with Arkansas in February, is not expected to play and is not listed on the roster for Friday’s game.
Not long after Friday’s game, Harris, a linebacker, will be joining Liddell in Fayetteville after accepting a walk-on offer with the Razorbacks. He said he’d be moving in to his place on campus before the end of the month. Harris said last Saturday he’d be looking forward to spending the week at UCA and viewed it as a preview of the college life.
“It’s like an early college experience,” he said. “… You stay on campus in dorms and stuff like that. It’s kind of like getting ready for college.”
Johnson, who played on the offensive and defensive lines at Pine Bluff, said he would be attending Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the fall. He said he plans to take a year off from football but hopes to play for the Golden Lions his sophomore year.
“I think it’s best to take year off,” he said. “I’ve been playing both sides of the ball and starting for two years.
“My body needs a break and my mind needs a break, too.”
With an extended football vacation coming up, Johnson’s hoping to make the most out of the last opportunity to play high school football.
“It’s really a blessing,” he said. “It’s a chance to be proud of all you’ve accomplished.
“These moments don’t come every day.”