Also having big games for the East squad were running backs Derrick Henry (Yulee, Fla.) and Derrick Green (Richmond, Va./Hermitage). Henry finished with 10 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown while Green totaled eight carries for 49 yards. The East controlled the ball for most of the game with their run game. Greg Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage) rushed eight times for 29 yards and caught three passes for 16 yards. Henry is headed to Alabama while Bryant has committed to Notre Dame.
While those guys played well the much of the credit has to go to the East offensive line. For the most part they controlled the line of scrimmage. Tackles Austin Golson (Prattville, Ala.), Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia) and Evan Lisle (Centerville, Ohio), guards Khaliel Rodgers (Elkton, Md./Tri-State Christian Academy), and Brian Kublanow (Marietta, Ga./Walton) and center Brian Mahon (Randolph, N.J.) did a very nice job opening up running lanes for the East backs. At times, they were creating huge holes.
On the flip side the West hung around, aided by their special teams play. Both Antwaun Davis (Bastrop, La.) and Jaylon Smith (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers) blocked field goal attempts to keep the West within one score. Going into the fourth quarter it was a one possession game. USC bound quarterback Max Browne (Sammamish, Wa./Skyline) hit Texas A&M commit Derrick Griffin (Rosenberg, Texas/Terry) on a beautiful fade pass for a touchdown with 7:11 remaining in the game. Browne then hit tight end Desean Smith (Lake Charles, La./Barbe) for a two-point conversion to take an 8-7 lead.
Defensively for the West, linebacker Jaylon Smith, defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes III (Placer, Calif.), safety Tahaan Goodman (Rancho Cucamonga) and linebacker Myles Jack (Bellevue, Wa.) all had some shining moments in the game. Goodman and Jack both finished with a team high five tackles. Two players from the Peach State both led the East team in Georgia bound commits Tray Matthews (Newnan, Ga.) and Johnny O'Neal (Dublin, Ga./West Laurens). They both finished with four tackles.
The big return(s)
It wasn't a high scoring affair but each time there was a kick return it became a big play. For the West Tra'Davious White (Shreveport, La./Green Oaks) had two big returns in the first half. Chris Hawkins (Rancho Cucamonga) set up the West in great field position with a super return after the East took the lead in the fourth quarter. Before that, Taquan Mizzell (Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside) had a great return to give the East a very short field on their game winning drive. All three players showed outstanding speed and quickness. In all there were five returns for 206 yards.
There were six commitments during the U.S. Army All-American game. Wide receiver Tyler Boyd (Clairton, Pa.) committed to Pitt, defensive lineman Joe Mathis (Upland, Calif.) committed to Washington, wide receiver Tony Stevens (Orlando, Fla./Evans) committed to Texas A&M, defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad (Ramsey, N.J./Don Bosco) committed to Miami, wide receiver James Quick (Louisville, Ky./Trinity) committed to Louisville and linebacker Mike Mitchell (Plano, Texas/Prestonwood Christian) committed to Ohio State.
Special day for LB
It was a very special day for linebacker Michael Hutchings. He is an U.S. Army All-American. But it became even more special for Hutchings, as he was also playing for his high school coach at Concord (Calif.) De La Salle, Bob Ladouceur. Ladouceur retired yesterday after 34-years coaching the mighty Spartans, widely regarded as one of the country's top high school football program year in and year out.
"We heard it throughout the season but it was surprising to finally hear it," Hutchings said. "It was a great time playing for Coach Lad. I mean, he's a legend in America and the high school football world and the football world, period. So it was a pleasure playing there. He taught us a lot. As far as football how to carry ourselves off the field, on the field, and just dealing with anything. The media, how to speak, dealing with people in general. He taught us everything."
Ladouceur coached once in this very game. In his 34 years of coaching he won an astounding 399 games. This past season one service named De La Salle the mythical national champions and the No. 1 high school team in the nation. They had a 151 game winning streak from 1992 to 2003 and 20 unbeaten seasons. He won five CIF Bowl Championships and 28 North Coast titles in California.
There were some big plays in this game. Miami bound defensive end Que Muhammad had a sack, strip and fumble recovery for the East squad. He finished with a game high 1.5 sacks.
On the first possession of the game, future Trojans had a chance meeting in the backfield, as Kenny Bigelow (Elkton, Md./Tri-State Christian Academy) sacked his future teammate at USC in Max Browne.
Tahaan Goodman perhaps had the hit of the day on Greg Bryant. Bryant caught a pass out in the flat and Goodman tattooed him with a vicious hit.
Almost a big play
Trailing 15-8, the West was set up in great field position late in the fourth quarter after a super kick return by Chris Hawkins. The West went to their bag of tricks. They tried a reverse pass with wide receiver John Diarse (Monroe, La./Neville). Streaking down the middle of the field open by a good 10-15 yards was Jake Oliver (Dallas, Texas/Jesuit). Only Diarse didn't see him. He held on to the ball to extend the play and tried to throw into the endzone and make a play but the pass was incomplete. Had he seen Oliver earlier it would have been an easy pitch and catch for perhaps the game winning score.
OL giving back
Texas offensive lineman commitment Jake Raulerson (Celina, Texas) could be found after the game rallying up the Army troop section, throwing up the Horns, collaborating a collective "Hook'Em". Raulerson, per several requests from the group, then tossed his signed pair of cleats and chin strap into the stands.
"It's just an honor, a huge honor to be able to do this for the soldiers. I mean, they give their lives for us," he sighed. "This is the least I can do. It's the little things I can give back. If I could give it all away, I would, but I can't. I hope I gave them a great performance."
Emphasis on East Bonding
In the same fashion as the rest of the week, the East team spent the moments after the game as a group singing, dancing and celebrating.
As they stood up on the makeshift stage, defensive line coach Dwyane Thomas had the entire team smiling, singing with their arms slung over each other.
Earlier in the week, East head coach Bob Beatty of Louisville Trinity (Ky.) High summed up this type of camaraderie happening under his tutelage.
"They know what lies ahead and they want to be successful," Beatty said. "They are athletes and they want to compete. There is a scoreboard, and they want one more point up there than their opponent."
Thomas, the head coach at Eastern Christian in Elkton, Md., fostered that same environment for the winning team.
"Making sure they understand that it is an all-star game and it is a showcase," Thomas said. "We are going to get you all as many reps as we can in a game, but twenty years from now you are going to look back and say I was a part of the Army All- American team. So lets put that all in perspective, being selected is really the honor."
Record setting attendance
They have been playing the U.S. Army All-American Bowl at the Alamo Dome since 2002. That year the 17,185 people attended the game. Today's attendance was a game record 40,133, breaking last year's number of 39,011.