It was, essentially, a classic case of talented offense against talented defense. Many of the nation’s premier prospects on the prep circuit from the Class of 2016 playing in one final game before moving on to to the collegiate level.
In the end, naturally when it mattered most, the skill position players for the West delivered in crunch time of a 21-14 victory over the East during the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl at Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium on Dec. 20.
The victory in the elite-level national game was the third in as many tries for NFL veteran and West coach Mark McMillian. His counterpart on the sideline for the East was one-time pro and Alabama alumni George Teague.
With close to 30 scholarship offers in place, Zach Farrar was disruptive throughout and caught what proved to the game-winning touchdown, a 57-yarder from Paten Snell, with 11:25 left in the fourth quarter for the final margin.
Snell, composed from start to finish, moved the ball well in the second half. At the 4:10 mark of the third quarter, in fact, he connected with Mountain West Conference target Thomas Reid on a 21-yard touchdown pass to tie the score, 14-14.
A Northwestern State commit, also with interest from SMU and a handful of programs in the American Athletic Conference, Snell was in the running for Offensive MVP. Once word spreads, life on the recruiting trail figures to be particularly hectic.
Defense led to the game’s first points Conference USA target James Brown picked up a fumble and scored on an 88-yard return to give the East a 7-0 advantage with 7:15 remaining in the first quarter. The linebacker shined on the big stage.
Princeton commit Kevin Davidson, who has options in the Mountain West Conference, provided a spark for the West and connected with Texas commit Davion Curtis on a 44-yard pass play to tie the score, 7-7, with :44 left in the second quarter.
One-time Oklahoma State commit, Pac-12 Conference and SEC target Nick Starkel provided many highlights for the West in the first half. Same thing can be said about teammates Morian Walker, Mike Green, Tevin McDaniel and Justice Bean.
After halftime, the East answered on the strength of its offensive line, with LSU commit Donavaughn Campbell, Cincinnati commit Sean Bailey, Monmouth commit Cameron Brown, ACC target Phelps Gambill and Sun Belt Conference target Noah Johnson.
Behind the big boys, Vanderbilt commit Deuce Wallace looked in the direction of ACC target Tucker Spears in the third quarter and then Anthony Riley reached the end zone on an 11-yard touchdown run to give the East a 14-7 advantage at the 11:13 mark.
Illinois State commit James Robinson was reliable as they come out of the backfield for the East and finished with 123 rushing yards on 15 carries. Ivy League target Conference Triston Fairchild also contributed with 76 rushing yards on 11 carries.
With its calling card coming on defense, the East received some well-rounded efforts. Tennessee commit Emmit Gooden was sidelined due to injury, but Southern Miss commit Jacques Turner and ACC target Brian Manuel did a good job up front.
SEC target Dorian Banks, Ohio Valley Conference targets Rodrick Napper and Raye Wilson handled things in the secondary, despite the talent across the line of scrimmage. Also, Conference USA target Toron Morten was a force to be reckon with.
For the West, a few standouts in the secondary included Oklahoma State commit Madre Harper, Air Force commit Chandler Claterbaugh, Mountain West Conference target Elijah Orr, and Big Sky Conference targets Broderick Jones and Ethan Eagerton.
At the second level, there was no shortage of options for the West with Pac-12 Conference target Jeremiah Pritchard, Mountain West Conference targets Manaia Atuaia, Corey Selenski, and Alex Hunter, also Big 12 Conference target Brett Bloodworth.
Other notables for the West, particularly along both lines, were Texas Tech commit Joe Wallace, Pac-12 Conference targets Frederick Mauigoa, Lorenzo Neal and Tiano Tialavea, also Mountain West Conference target Massen Newton to name a few.
When all was said and done, in what proved to be a particularly narrow vote, Robinson was named Offensive MVP. On the other side of the ball, also a close decision, Harper was named as the Defensive MVP. Many players were worthy of both honors.
While talks continue with multiple networks for a television deal, this weekend’s Blue-Grey All-American Bowl from Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium is now being nationally broadcast via delayed stream on Impact Football Network (follow this link for details).