For the most part, the Santa Rosa and Okaloosa County football programs had their way with Escambia County this season.
With the exception of District 1-5A, those two counties combined for a clean sweep of the other three district championships in the three-county area.
Friday night at Pace High School, a select group of seniors from those Escambia County programs got a chance to go out on a winning note against their Santa Rosa/Okaloosa counterparts.
The Escambia County-based West squad jumped out to a 21-2 lead over the East, then held off a late rally before getting a game-clinching touchdown from offensive MVP Tay Samuel of Tate to cruise to a 28-18 win in the Subway/PSA All-Star game.
“It feels good,” said Samuel, who finished the game with 117 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. “I put in work and put in the time, so it feels good for me to win the MVP. And winning this game just means more, it means a lot.
“It’s been fun. We came to practice and got prepared for the game and did what we had to do. I was just coming out here to have fun. I’m just blessed. Thank God for this opportunity.”
The West proved to be the better team from the outset as the defense turned back an early East scoring attempt, and the offense responded to that with a 39-yard touchdown pass from Catholic’s Cody Henry to West Florida’s Daylan Abrams for a quick 7-0 lead.
After another stop, the West got the ball back, but this time went backwards as Henry fumbled the exchange with Samuel and had to pounce on the loose ball in their own end zone for a safety to cut the lead to 7-2.
But just a matter of minutes later, the West was back on offense and West Florida’s Joey Baker took over at QB and found a familiar target in Lawrence Lee for the 42-yard TD and the 14-2 halftime lead.
The West got the ball to start the second half and drove right down the field with Northview’s Daulton Tullis under center.
Samuel pounded it in from 3 yards out to put the West comfortably ahead 21-2.
But the West got a little careless with the ball, and an interception by Joey Baker resulted in a four-play, 28-yard scoring drive for the East. The two-point conversion run by Crestview’s Jaylynne Robinson was successful to make it a 21-10 West lead.
A few minutes later, a Henry interception on a flea-flicker pass attempt paved the way for another East score, this one capping off a seven-play, 41-yard drive. East offensive MVP Garrison Floyd of Choctaw hit Fort Walton Beach’s Trace Ryan for the 6-yard TD to cut it to 21-16. Floyd then took it in on the two-point conversion to cut it to 21-18.
All that did was wake up the West squad, as they rode the legs of Samuel and Danikeei Hollowell to an 8-play, 68-yard scoring drive capped off by Samuel’s 32-yard run. The West finished with 444 yards, compared to 242 yards for the East.
Baker completed 7-of-12 passes for 117 yards, Henry completed 5-of-6 for 107 yards and Tullis was 6-for-10 with 51 yards. Lee had a big night receiving with 104 yards on six catches.
“It was a great week with a bunch of great kids and a bunch of great coaches,” PHS coach Mike Bennett said. “We battle so hard against each other all year long, and you finally get to play with guys you played with in little league.
“It’s just nice to see Pensacola High School and Escambia kids playing with each other and West Florida and Catholic and Pine Forest, PHS and Escambia. It’s just a bunch of good kids that came together and played very hard tonight.”