The West team won a lopsided affair 42-17, but the whole point of the week was to bond and build relationships with unfamiliar teammates and coaches.
“It’s so fun to work with a great group of kids like this,” said Elizabethton head coach Shawn Witten, who coached the winning side on Saturday. “You read about these guys in the newspapers, see the highlights on film and it’s cool to make it all fun and competitive.”
Cherokee’s Japheth Curtsinger was named defensive most valuable player from the West team, totaling four sacks and a multitude of other tackles. He also caught a touchdown pass from Elizabethton’s Carter Everett late in the game.
Virginia High receiver Jamison Lathrop from the East team was named offensive MVP, accumulating 11 catches for 172 yards and one touchdown.
“Practicing in the snow was one of the best parts,” Witten said. “One day we’d practice and have six inches of snow and 20 yards. The next day, we’d have 60 yards. One of the biggest things, we had was kids from Thomas Walker coming to Kingsport for practice, which is like an hour and a half up the road twice a week.
“Everyone coming from both the Virginia and Tennessee sides was pretty cool. Without Gary (Maggard) and the FCA people across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, none of this would be possible. It gives these kids one more opportunity to put that uniform on and that’s special.”
The game looked fairly even for most of the first quarter with the West up only one score after Dobyns-Bennett quarterback London Redwine hit David Crockett receiver John Kollie on a 26-yard scoring pass midway through the period.
The second quarter is where things started to go south for the East team. The period started off promising, yielding a 25-yard field goal by Tennessee High’s Alvaro Lopez — but the West immediately responded with a TD pass from Everett to Micah Robinson (Crockett).
After a fumble, the West scored once more when Redwine hit South Greene’s Tristan Biddy on a fade route from 10 yards away to the back of the end zone. All of a sudden, the East squad found itself down 21-3.
It wasn’t helping either that Curtsinger and the entire West defensive line were causing problems for the dual-quarterback system of Abingdon’s Gabe Boothe and Unaka’s John Ramsey, forcing them out of the pocket for off-target throws.
The West got the final score of the half when Dwayne Garrett (Lee High) ran it in from a yard away. That put the West, up 28-3 at the intermission, in control.
The East team was able to score two late touchdowns as Boothe hit Lathrop on a 25-yard post pattern and Richlands running back Trey Brown punched it in from 5 yards away with less than 20 seconds to go.
Gaining just 38 rushing yards, the East had five failed fourth-down conversions, two turnovers and 10 sacks allowed.
As for the West, it totaled 440 yards on the day with one failed fourth-down conversion, one interception and a fumble.