By Thomas Sellers Jr.
MEMPHIS — Turnovers, big offensive plays and long special teams runs ruled the 13th Annual AutoZone Liberty Bowl High School All-Star Game Saturday.
But it took a defensive play on the turf of MUS Stadium to help the Blue All-Stars pull out a 45-39 victory the Red All-Stars. With the Red Team trying to drive 99 yards in the final minutes, Blue All-Star linebacker Patrick Macon (Millington) stepped in front of a pass for a pick with a minute and 24 seconds remaining. Macon limped down the field on his sore ankle setting up a chance for the Blue Team to run out the clock.
“It made me feel good,” Macon said of his INT. “My mother always told me, ‘Never quit, no matter how hard times get.’ So I tried harder. And when I tried harder, I ended up with an interception. Maybe the play of the game.”
Macon might have had the play of the game but his teammate Cameron Sanders (CBHS) earned MVP honors for the contest with his return touchdown and interception.
The first big play of the game came courtesy of the Red Team when quarterback Cedric Crawford (Melrose) dropped back and connected with speedster Tony Pollard for a 69-yard TD pass to make the score 7-0.
The score became 7-6 moments later in the first quarter when Blue Team running back Earl Harrison (Ridgeway) broke loose for a 59 yard run to the end zone.
Red added to its narrow lead a few minutes later when running back Colton Neel (MUS) capped off a long drive with a 2-yard run. The Red All-Stars would lead 20-6 at the end of the first quarter Michael Mason (Kirby) scored from 1-yard out.
Fumbled plaqued the Blue Team throughout the first quarter. The Blue’s miscues helped the Red All-Stars build a 23-6 advantage after a 31-yard field goal from Matthew Smith (Northpoint).
The Blue Team’s comeback started with a Sanders kickoff return of 91 yards to make the score 23-13 midway through the second quarter. Then Blue All-Star Sean Williams made a pick near midfield to set up the next Blue score. It was the Craigmont Connection of Blue Head Coach Cecil VanHooks that trimmed the Red lead to 3 points.
Andrew McIntyre (Craigmont) tossed a 29-yard TD pass to his receiver Kristian Wilkerson (Craigmont) who made a leaping catch. The Red All-Stars tried to snap the Blue’s momentum with a Smith 40-yard field goal to make the score 26-20. And that as the tally at halftime. The Blue Team finally tied the game at 26-26 when Jonathan Bowlan (Bartlett) threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Wilkerson who made another leaping grab with a defender hanging onto the ball. The Blue All-Stars finally took the lead with 12 minutes and 5 seconds left in the third quarter when Williams made another interception he took back to the house to make the score 33-26.
Bowlan added to the Blue’s lead later in the quarter with a QB keeper to make the score 39-26. Red Team Head Coach Robby Donaldson of FACS went to his bag of tricks on the next play. With Blue Team kicker Luke Bell (Millington) kicking off, Terry Wright (White Station) field the ball. His teammate Jonathan Johnson (Melrose) raced toward him to receive a reverse. Johnson had a lot of free space up the field for an 84-yard touchdown return to make the score 39-32.
But the final touchdown of the third quarter would belong to the Blue Team. Quarterback Braxton Conard (Ridgeway) tossed a 6-yard TD pass to tight end Marquette Murdock (Ridgeway) to give the Blue Team a 45-32 advantage.
The fourth quarter saw more fumbles and interceptions until the 5-minute and 14-second mark. Crawford cut into the Blue Team’s lead when he connected with Pollard to make the score 45-39.
The Red Team had a couple more chances to try to erase the 6-point deficit. But Macon made his timely interception on a hurt ankle to give the Blue Team the victory and break the series overall tie. Coming into the game, the all-time series was tied at six games apiece.
Also in the history of the game, several stars from both sides have gone onto college and professional football like Josh Jasper, Duke Calhoun, Dan Williams, Craig Cooper and Dontari Poe. Macon said he would love to be the next in line.
“It feels great to end my high school career with a win,” he said. “But would make it feel more awesome? That offer, I would love to get an offer.
“I think I showed college coaches how tough I am today,” Macon continued. “They always say they want a fighter, a never-quit guy. I hope they see that in me. We’re on an All-Star team. They honored me by selecting me to play in this. So I had to show up.”
The Red Team All-Stars are coaches Robby Donaldson (FACS), Teran Conley (FACS), Will Hudgens (Houston), Joey Love (FACS), Joe Rocconi (White Station), Greg Wallace (Northpoint) and Eddie Woods (Melrose); players Joshua McMilon (Whitehaven), Jonathan Johnson (Melrose), Joey Magnifico (St. Benedict), Kevin Hall (Melrose), Tony Pollard (Melrose), Terry Wright (White Station), Cedric Crawford (Melrose), Kyland Tate (East), Anfernee Alexander (Oakhaven), Andre Jones (Central), Jared Schmidt (Houston), Stonie Fitzgerald (Wooddale), Jack Evans (FACS), Tyler Currie (St. Benedict), Bobby Downing (FACS), Zo’Ron Frye (White Station), Tomadreus Trezevant (Mitchell), Carliss Settles (Harding), Ladraius Jordan (St. Benedict), Colton Neel (MUS) Calvin Robinson (Hamilton), Darian McGhee (White Station), Matthew Smith (Northpoint), Prentiss Sumerall (Westwood), Tracy Grant (Sheffield), Tracy James (Hillcrest), Maleik Gatewood (MUS), Peyton Jones (MUS), Drw Rutland (FACS), Javonta Williams (MAHS), Evan Gregory (White Station), Miles Wallace (White Station), Vincent Williams (Central), Mason Piper (Houston), Donald Cofield (Whitehaven), Brytain Peddy (Munford), Rhodes White (Lausanne), Brant Newman (MUS), Drew Richmond (MUS), Michael Mason (Kirby), Willie Saulsberry (Fairley) and Vasco Curry East.
The Blue Team All-Stars were coaches Cecil VanHooks (Craigmont), David Carter (St. George’s), Carl Coleman (Manassas), Anthony Jones (Cordova), Mike O’Neill (Collierville), Scott Vogel (CBHS) and Teli White (Trezevant); players Jackson Boring (Arlington), DeVedrick Chaney (Kingsbury), Tito Hunter (Trezevant), Kristian Wilkerson (Craigmont), Darius Threlkeld (Craigmont), Johnathan Mabone (Arlington), Braxton Conard (Ridgeway), Greg Harvey (Cordova), Jamal Jones (Trezevant), Luke Bell (Millington), Gabriel Scott (Trezevant), Andrew McIntyre (Craigmont), Lorenzo Cantu (St. George’s), Cameron Sanders (CBHS), Antonio Turner (Manassas), Jonathan Bowlan (Bartlett), Melvin Harris Rossville), Logan Stewart (Tipton-Rosemark), Cameron Doyle (Collierville), Taylor Putt (Fayette Academy), Austin Hall (Collierville), Devon Neal (Brighton), Braylon Porter (Bolton), Sean Williams (Cordova), Clay Crenshaw (St. George’s), Earl Harrison (Ridgeway), Jona Ligon (Germantown), Tadarius Davis (Manassas), Patrick Macon (Millington), Desmond Hawkins (Craigmont), Kevin Washington (MLK Prep), Elontae Bateman (Ridgeway), Nicholas Clay (Trezevant), Khilon Wright (CBHS), Jude Hydrick (Briarcrest), Carlos Mathis (Manassas), Angelo Pirtle (Millington), Camren Jones (Ridgeway), Yousef Khulfan (Douglass), Larry Palm (Ridgeway), Marquette Murdock (Ridgeway), Carson White (Collierville) and Terry Fulte (Ridgeway).