SPORTS >> Standouts get the call as all-stars
Leader sports editor
Five Leader area football players have been named to the East roster for the Arkansas High School Coaches Association all-star football game.
Cabot got its full allotment of two players — all-state linebacker Spencer Neumann and all-state defensive lineman T.J. Bertrand — while Lonoke standout running back Brandon Smith, Searcy defensive lineman Larry Kirkpatrick and Harding Academy defensive tackle Montgomery Fisher were also selected.
The game, pitting a squad of East all-stars against a team from the West, will be played June 25 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. The all-star game is in its 55th year.
Neumann, signing with Central Arkansas on Wednesday, is The Leader defensive player of the year who had 108 tackles for Cabot. Smith, who has narrowed his college choices to Arkansas Tech or Missouri Southern, is The Leader offensive player of the year after gaining 1,953 yards and scoring 24 touchdowns.
“He had a great football season this year,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost, who led the Jackrabbits to the 4A state final. “A young man that’s going to go off to college and keep playing football. That’s a great way to end his high school career. He’s been a three-year starter for us. That’s a great honor right there to be one of the top 50 in the state.”
Neumann finished his career as Cabot’s all-time leading tackler and was expected to be an automatic all-star pick after three years of all-state honors.
But Cabot coach Mike Malham said Bertrand was also a clear choice.
“I knew T.J. would be in there because he was the outstanding lineman of the 7A-Central Conference and that’s an automatic,” Malham said.
Bertrand, also an all 7A-Central pick, had 61 tackles, six sacks and one forced fumble and has drawn the interest of Memphis.
“As far as our defense, we had two or three others that if they’d go in instead of those two, I wouldn’t have complained,” Malham said. “We had five that made the all-state team, any of those five.”
Each high school team is allowed only two all-star representatives, unless a kicker is also selected.
Lonoke tackle Tyler Breashears, who won the Brandon Burlsworth award for outstanding lineman in the state final loss to Shiloh Christian, was also nominated for all-star selection and Bost was holding out hope Breashears would eventually wind up on the team.
“Over the next few months people back out and he could get invited,” Bost said. Regardless, one last high school game against former opponents is always and honor and a pleasant experience, Bost said.
“They’re going to play with kids they competed against the last three years,” Bost said. “You get to go for a whole week and room with them and hang out. I think that’s a great opportunity.”
Malham said he was glad the all-star game is played in June, instead of late summer as it had been in the past. The schedule is easier on college-bound players like Neumann, Malham said.
As for the chance of an injury sidelining a player just before the next phase of his career, Malham said that’s just part of the game, even if it’s an all-star game.
There will be playing time for everyone, and East coach Paul Johnston, of Bald Knob, and West coach Tommy Gilleran, of Fountain Lake, aren’t expected to make the proceedings too strenuous.
“Practice is like a picnic compared to what we do,” Malham said.