In a game featuring some of the nation’s the top prospects in the Class of 2023, this one lived up to the hype, as West defeated East, 20-13, at the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl held at Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium on Dec. 19.
With more than a few highly-regarded recruits in attendance, too many to count it seemed, all eyes were on Auburn commit Tyler Johnson. Particularly so during his sideline interview with frequent ESPN reporter Laura Sadler.
The four-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite Rankings, an accurate talent indicator as the tool combines evaluations of all the major recruiting services, talked about his his recent pledge to Texas Tech and flip to the SEC.
As for the play on the field itself, there more than a few memorable moments. The most important of which, was when Conference USA target Drew Cowart stepped up for the West and its coach, NFL veteran Seneca Wallace.
In the running for Offensive MVP, he threw what proved to the game-deciding touchdown pass, a 38-yarder to Sun Belt Conference target Joshua Wilhite. The rest, as they say, is history. Cowart was in control throughout.
Prior to that important sequence, Big Sky Conference target Evan Rearick connected with Southland Conference target Nikaidian Gray on a 28-yard touchdown pass to give the West a much-needed 17-6 advantage.
On the other side of the ball, for the East, Sun Belt Conference target Makenzie McGill was a force to be reckon with for the East. He finished with 76 rushing yards on seven carries, four of those accounted for first downs.
Missouri Valley Football Conference target Donnie Cheers on the East was nearly named Offensive MVP after his 12-yard touchdown catch from Conference USA target Bax Townsend cut the deficit to 17-13 in the fourth quarter.
SMU commit Reagan Gill and Tarleton State commit Rikter Connally were forces to be reckon with for the West and created holes for Pac-12 Conference Gianni Mascolino and Big Sky Conference target Armani Patterson.
Mountain West Conference target Kaiki Akana, Big Sky Conference target Tyler Buckway, with Missouri Valley Football Conference targets Barrett Luce and Payton McDonald did well in the trenches for the West.
For the East, Big Ten Conference target Nolan DeLong was named Defensive MVP with 11 tackles, nine solo stops, two for losses. Not to be forgotten, Big 12 Conference target Ty Weber was in the running for the award as well.
Both of them had plenty of help along the way, from the likes of SEC target James Glover-Tyson, Missouri Valley Football Conference target Levi Whittenberg and Colonial Athletic Association target R.J. Brown.
With nearly 10 scholarship offers in place, SEC target Farand Washington received consideration for Defensive MVP honors following an interception and eight tackles for the East and its coach, NFL veteran Ken Stills.
South Dakota State commit Reis Kirschenman anchored the West defense, with six tackles, two for losses. Southland Conference target Lon Jordan and Western Athletic Conference (WAC) target Austin Cumpton also contributed.
One of the most talented secondaries in recent memory, NFL veteran trainer Reggie Young guided a West unit that included Mountain West Conference target Troy Bean and Big 12 Conference target Corey Thompson.
Conference USA target Sean Connor, Missouri Valley Football Conference Kaidan Ivory, Southland target Jeremiah Wilson and Big Sky Conference target Ethan Krominga impressed Young and the coaching staff.
Ohio Valley Conference target Braxton Sharp ran behind an East line with Big 12 Conference targets Kenny Wermy and Sean Rich, also Sun Belt Conference targets Riley Whitten, Gabriel Hernandez and Elijah Hardin.
Ohio Valley Conference target Kristopher Hughes, Southern Conference target Eric Rasheed and Missouri Valley Football Conference target Tommy Wright were more than capable pass-catchers for the East.
Another highlight, by most accounts, was an All-American Bowl record 52-yard field goal by Michigan commit Cordell Jones-McNally of the East in the first half, on a snap from Payton Naylor and hold by Townsend.