By ALEX AGUEROS
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) – Walton Stadium hosted the 2014 Lions Club All-Star Game Saturday, where a week-long camp for some of Missouri’s finest high school football players culminated in one final exhibition game.
The Gold All-Stars, coached by Tipton’s Tony Braby, scored 14 unanswered points in the second half to top the Blue All-Stars 20-14.
“It was just my night,” Braby said. “I was just lucky. The ball bounced our way.”
Braby means that quite literally.
The ball bounced three times, once off the hands of Gold team receiver Haydn Lock of Blair Oaks, and twice off the helmet and back of Blue team lineman Dalton Wiley of Higginsville before landing in Lock’s hands on the way to a 68-yard touchdown reception. The first of two missed extra-point attempts left Gold trailing 7-6 at half time.
Gold All-Star Wren Rodriguez of Eldon recovered a fumble that bounced away from two Blue linemen to seal the victory with less than four minutes to play. Gold went three-and-out after the fumble recovery, but Blue’s final drive stalled after four desperate pass attempts fell incomplete.
The Missouri Lions Club 38th annual All-Star game featured 43 athletes from 31 different schools. Braby and Marceline head coach Paul Thomas picked their respective teams from nominated players across the state. Six players will attend the University of Central Missouri next fall, with 16 more enrolled in other MIAA schools.
Linebacker Ty Larsen represented Warrensburg High School. He finished the game with five tackles for the Blue All-Stars.
Larsen, who will attend Avila University this fall, said the environment was great.
“We played hard,” Larsen said. “It didn’t work out the way we wanted to, but it was a good time. Everyone here was awesome and it was a blast. I had a great time.”
Linebackers Tanner Perry of Clinton, Caleb Thomas of Crest Ridge, running back Marcus Elmore and defensive lineman Dalton Wiley of Higginsville also represented local high school teams.
The Blue All-Stars got the scoring started in the second quarter when Nick Hess, listed as a linebacker from Liberty North, finished a lengthy drive with a 12-yard touchdown run. He finished the game with 83 yards on four carries.
A direct snap to Blue All-Star running back Jaylend Simmons of Liberty North on a fake punt attempt left him with just the return man to beat on his 55-yard touchdown run.
Team Gold did the rest of the scoring.
Quarterback Garrett Titus of Lawson connected with fellow Benedictine commit Tyler Thrasher of Bishop LeBlond for a 28-yard touchdown reception. Thrasher pounded in the 2-point conversion tying the game at 14 to start the fourth quarter.
Titus finished the game 10-for-19 with 169 passing yards and two touchdowns. Blue All-Star quarterback Matt McCullough of Bishop LeBlond completed 8-of-21 pass attempts for 130 yards.
With about 10 minutes to play, running back Ramon Jamerson of Cole Camp broke free for an 18-yard touchdown run. Another missed PAT, this one after the team declined an encroachment penalty before the previous snap, kept the game interesting all the way to the Blue All-Star’s final desperate drive.
The All-Star game ended a week-long camp sponsored by the Missouri Lions Club and the players’ respective schools and boosters. Coach Braby said the players came a long way in just a week.
“It was just unbelievable how Sunday was so quiet, with a little bit of shyness, nervousness,“ Braby said. “Each day a little bit of it kept peeling away until there was smiles, laughter and stories. It was a great experience to see them bonding.”
Each player wore their school’s helmet on top of their Blue or Gold uniform. The mismatched headgear highlighted both the geographical difference between teammates and their respective team’s play style. Braby says bringing those individual minds together was a challenge.
“Basically, it was 31 other philosophies from other coaches,” Braby said. “I mean, we had some country boys and we had some city boys and everyone just mended and came together as one unit, and that’s what was amazing.”
For John Dolt, Gold All-Star offensive lineman from Lawson High School, the game was one last chance to end his career on a high note. Dolt’s Cardinals lost 42-0 to Lamar in the Class 2 State Championship last season. He, nor anybody else, took this exhibition game lightly.
“It was a battle,” Dolt said. “(It was) pretty much all-out war between both teams.”
Dolt, who is enrolled at UCM for the fall semester, played in his final football game at his final football camp. The past week concluded many respectable high school careers, and turned a camp full of awkward teenagers into, in Dolt’s words, lifelong friends. What’s next?
“I’m ready for college,” he said.