Even though some of the state’s top high school football recruits like St. Augustine’s Leonard Fournette and Neville’s Laurence Jones won’t be in attendance, Saturday’s East-West All-Star Game will still showcase a number of highly-regarded prospects.
Nineteen of Louisiana’s top 100 recruits, as ranked by 247sports.com, will set foot in Independence Stadium for the 1 p.m. kickoff between two, 36-player squads nominated by their respective coaches.
Seven players will represent Shreveport on the West All-Stars, including Evangel receiver Jared Cornelius — the No. 43 prospect who has signed with Arkansas.
Other local products include Byrd defensive back Nicholas Pratt, Byrd running back Louis Mills, Byrd defensive lineman Chandler Nance, Calvary defensive lineman Randy Woodle, Calvary offensive lineman Jaren Stringer and Fair Park defensive lineman LaDarrius Woodards.
Notre Dame’s Lewis Cook, the West All-Stars head coach who’s been a head coach in three other all-star games, said he enjoys working with the state’s best players in these events.
“That’s the intrigue of being in this game is to get to know some of these kids and have the opportunity to coach them,” said Cook, who’s also coached the likes of Andrew Luck and Patrick Peterson in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. “A lot of them will move on and have a college career, and it’s amazing the guys I’ve coached in the past how many of them I still have relationships with.
“It’s pretty neat to follow those kids.”
The East All-Stars bring a little more high-end talent with 11 top 100 players compared to eight for the West All-Stars. But seven West players are already committed or signed to Division I schools while eight East players have committed/signed.
Ouachita receiver Cameron Sims (Alabama) is the most highly-rated recruit at No. 9, and will be catching passes from Neville’s Andre Fuller II (McNeese State, No. 50 recruit) and Northlake Christian’s Josh O’Rear for the East. Neville linebacker Ashari Goins (No. 82 recruit) will join Fuller at McNeese .
Neville coach Mickey McCarty, the East All-Stars head coach, said he’s not too concerned about talented players learning a playbook in three days of practices.
“All of these coaches are good coaches, and they will have enough scheme in to come out and play the game and let these players showcase their talents,” McCarty said. “Our playbooks will be starting pretty simple, and three days to prepare is a little short.
“But most of these players will be able to chew up some scheme, and their knowledge of football is really high. Their IQ is high, so there will be enough scheme in to have some fun with them and hopefully make some big plays on Saturday.”
Along with Cornelius, the West counters with three more Southeastern Conference commits in Kare linebacker Donnie Alexander (LSU, No. 24), John Ehret running back Darrel Williams, Jr., (LSU, No. 16) and South Lafourche offensive lineman Bailey Granier (Vanderbilt, No. 42 recruit).
Barbe quarterback Kennon Fontenot might be throwing a football competitively for the last time Saturday as he has signed to play baseball with Oklahoma State (No. 99 football recruit). West St. John quarterback Austin Howard will also be under center.
Donaldsonville receiver Leondre James (Tulane, No. 39 recruit) and New Iberia running back Daniel Lewis (Hawaii, No. 67 recruit) are the West’s most highly regarded skill players.
The East will produce a defense that includes four top 100 players. Joining Goins is Block defensive lineman Ja’hmal Macklin (No. 83), Ouachita linebacker Eric Bowie (Tulane, No. 91) and Ouachita Christian defensive back Ahkeem Henderson (No. 96).
The East’s offense fires back with seven top 100 players that include Scotlandville running back Dontrell Hilliard (No. 20), East Feliciana running back Kameron McKnight (No. 22), Redemptorist receiver Russell Gage (No. 27), West Feliciana tight end Jay Ferguson (Louisiana Tech, No. 62) and Central-BR receiver Gary Triplett (No. 84).
Other East recruits committed to a Division I school include East St. John defensive lineman Daren Williams (Tulane), Sterlington linebacker Cody McGuire (Louisiana-Monroe) and Walker offensive lineman Shane Carpenter (Louisiana Tech).
For the West, Hahnville offensive lineman Hunter Perrin is headed to Northwestern State.
The East assistant coaches include Dwayne Thomasee (St. Amant), Phillip Banko (East St. John), Steven Fitzhugh (Ouachita Christian), Eric Held (Catholic-BR), Jimmy Lieux (Woodlawn-BR) and Reggie Rogers (Bonnabel).
Rounding out the West staff is Freddie Harrison (Washington-Marion), Mike Suggs (Byrd) Scott Abernathy (North DeSoto), Willie Brooks (Helen Cox), Mike Cutrera (Barbe), Tommy Johns (St. Louis).
The high school all-star game returns to Louisiana for the first time since 2005. One team of Louisiana players competed against a Texas All-Star team in the Bayou Bowl in Baytown, Texas — which was disbanded after a loss of sponsors.
Kelly Wells, Shreveport-Bossier’s vice president of sports and tourism marketing, said the area won a bid in August that included Lafayette and Lake Charles.
“It’s exciting to provide the stadium at a time when it’s all fixed up for the Advocare V100 Bowl in 10 days,” Wells said. “The businesses in our community have really stepped up to help with lodging, meals and activities, and the kids have loved being here since Wednesday.
“The players visited kids and veterans at the Shriners and VA hospitals as well.”