Kickoffs returned for touchdowns, seven interceptions, a pair of blocked punts, quarterbacks catching touchdown passes and receivers throwing them- the Toyota East vs. West All-Star Classic had it all.
The seventh edition of the annual event, held at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium in Cookeville, may have been the wildest one yet.
The teams- comprised of 88 high school seniors from across the state-combined for 94 points and 862 yards on Friday night.
Ultimately, the West won 55-39 behind a record-setting performance by Whitehaven running back Ramadi Warren, who set nearly every rushing record the all-star game tracks with 272 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries.
The 5-10, 175-pound back holds offers from North Carolina, Middle Tennessee, Cincinnati, Memphis and Arkansas State among others, but was playing with the clear goal of catching the eye of a Southeastern Conference program.
And with a game like he had on Friday, SEC coaches are likely to take notice.
“I’m just at a loss for words,” he said. “I worked hard this week during practice-the two-a-days really paid off.”
Warren ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, surpassing the game’s previous individual high of 118 yards set by Powell’s Dy’Shawn Mobley (2011) late in the second quarter.
Brentwood Academy’s Brandon Taylor made his own mark on the wild affair, taking the first kick he saw back for a 100-yard touchdown in his first of two special-teams scores from the kickoff return.
In high school, any kick that makes it to the end zone is an automatic touchback, but since this game was played with college rules, Taylor found himself with a new freedom.
“I love that rule – just taking it out of the end zone and going,” he said. “It’s super long though, when I got done I was so tired. But it was worth it.”
Taylor, who was the Eagles’ punt returner this season, never logged a kickoff return for a touchdown over his career at Brentwood Academy.
Warren and Taylor shared the honors of West offensive player of the game.
After trailing by as much as 28-10 in the first half, the East looked like it had some momentum early in the second half following a blocked punt by Siegel’s Denzel Harding that set up a 37-yard touchdown connection from Upperman’s Connor York to Blackman’s Styles Corder to bring the East within two points at 28-26.
But that is when Taylor struck again.
The 5-9, 165-pounder slipped free on the ensuing kickoff, taking it for a 100-yard touchdown for the second time and pushing the West lead back to 34-26.
The East drew within two points twice after, including 41-39 at the end of the third quarter, but was not able to catch up.
“Despite the score it was still fun,” Siegel’s Denzel Harding said after his East team came up short. “It was really fun going back and forth… It was just fun bonding with players that I had played against and then meeting players I had never seen before and getting to know them real good.”
Shelbyville’s Tyler Eddings earned defensive player of the game honors for the East with an interception and a tackle for loss on a fourth down attempt.
Adamsville’s Zak Neary had two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown to earn the West’s defensive player of the game. Fulton’s Xavier Hawkins won the East’s offensive player of the game by hauling in five catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
Wilson Central defensive end Preston Reed blocked a punt in the first quarter to set up a 14-yard touchdown run by Overton’s Justin Martin. Reed nearly blocked a second punt in the second quarter and recorded a sack.
43 Midstate players participated in the event, with 29 of them on the West roster compared to just 14 representing the East.