SPORTS>> Local all-stars shine
By Ray Benton
Leader sports editor
FAYETTEVILLE – The East All-Star football team couldn’t come away with a victory last Friday night at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, but all three local players in the game started for the East squad in defense and did a good job against the high-octaned offense of the West.
Jacksonville’s Clinton McDonald played right outside linebacker while Sylvan Hills’ Kevin Hubbard played opposite McDonald at left outside linebacker. Right in between those two was Cabot’s Thomas Valdez, who started at nose guard for the East squad.
The West won the game 28-13, but gained very little yardage against the East’s starting defense.
The West took the ball to start the game and went three and out. After three pass plays gained no yardage, a fourth pass on fourth and 10 was almost a certainty.
West QB Johnny Brewer of Rogers took the snap out of the shotgun, but never got to release the ball. McDonald shed his blocker effortlessly and drilled an unsuspecting Brewer in the back for the first of his two sacks in the game.
Hubbard almost blocked the ensuing punt on fourth and long.
The two teams traded possessions a couple more times in the first quarter, but an East turnover inside its own 20-yard line set the West up nicely.
Even with their backs to the wall, the East defenders had stopped the West from getting a first down, but the first of several personal foul penalties on the East kept the West drive alive.
Still, it took three plays for the West to get one yard, when game MVP Brandon Barnett of Texarkana caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Brewer in the right corner of the North end zone.
Most of the starters for both teams took a seat in the second quarter, but the West left Barnett on the field. The Razorback signee broke loose early in the second quarter against the East’s second string and scampered 35 yards for the score and a 14-0 West lead.
The East answered in the second quarter with the option offense guided by CAC quarterback Jesse Gates. Gates and Wynne running back Courtney Williams carried the team down the field before Williams scored on a 13-yard run. The extra point was no good and the West led 14-6. Another long run on the West’s ensuing possession, this one by El Dorado quarterback Josh Shepherd, put the West up 21-6 heading into halftime.
The East answered and cut the margin to 21-13 on the first possession in the second half. Oak Grove tailback Darren McFadden did the bulk of the work this time, capping the drive with an 18-yard run up the middle for the score.
It became a defensive struggle the rest of the way with starters and the best of the second string playing the game out.
Valdez and McDonald played all but one snap in the second half while Hubbard sat most of the time. Hubbard became involved in a couple of scuffles with West tight end Mitch Petrus, leading to his bench time in the second half.
Petrus played the rest of the game, and became a pest to McDonald in the second half, leading to a scene late in the game that saw Carlisle’s big Colorado State signee flung to the ground by the future Memphis Tiger. No call was made on that play, despite the incident taking place about 12 yards behind the line of scrimmage and 25 yards away from the ball.
After McDonald, Valdez and the rest of the East defense forced a third straight West punt, the East turned it over again deep in their own territory with three minutes left.
An exhausted East defense made little resistance this time, allowing the West to score in just four plays, this time another run by Barnett, his third touchdown of the game.
All three local players turned in good performances, with McDon-ald’s huge hit early on highlighting a strong performance.
The nose guard doesn’t usually make a lot of tackles, and that was the case Friday for Valdez, but the Cabot defensive lineman did an excellent job of plugging up the middle and forcing the West to go outside.
Valdez made his presence known in practice earlier in the week, getting two sacks in the East’s first intra-squad scrimmage Wednesday morning. His play in that scrimmage drew praises from his conference rival, but East teammate Hubbard.
“I didn’t even know who he was until we got here, but he’s awesome,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard signed with the Razorbacks, but will play junior college ball to gain his eligibility.