Perhaps the 2011 season will be dominated by the defense in the Peach State. In a game featuring the some of the best rising seniors in the state of Georgia, the Randy McPherson-coached West roster defeated the Franklin Stephens-led East squad 20-18 in the inaugural AT&T Georgia Junior Bowl thanks to some great defense and strong special teams play.
The East got out to an early lead after a bad snap on the game’s first play from scrimmage caused a safety. With the 2-0 lead it appeared that North Gwinnett’s Scott Hosch connected with Lassiter’s Charlie Hegedus for a long touchdown, but the score was erased due to a penalty. Austin Hardin did add a field goal to give the East a 5-0 lead. Then the West’s defense made a huge play. With Greyson Lambert of Wayne County in the game at quarterback, a blitz forced a fumble that the West’s Terrell Cason (Cairo) scoped up and scored to give the West the lead. The lead was padded on a successful two-point conversion catch from Zach Gordon of Carrollton.
The West stretched its lead out on a quarterback keeper from Ricky Parks of Callaway to make it 14-5. Parks showed that he will be one of the top athletes to keep an eye on this upcoming season. With his blend of size and speed, look for Parks to maybe switch to tight end at the next level, but Callaway should be a player in 2011 with Parks in the shotgun and under center.
In the third quarter, the East got to within three points after a Mike Davis score from about eight yards out, but the momentum was thrown right back to the West side after Westlake’s Charles Purnell returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a score. Purnell showed great patience and waited for his blocks to set up before making his cut on the return. The East could only manage seven more points, on a DiAndre Atwater touchdown with less than three minutes to play. The East defense forced a three-and-out but the punt was fumbled with one minute to play and the West ran the clock out.
Carver-Columbus’ Deion Bonner came up with a few pass breakups and blocked a field goal and extra point, showing he will be the next great Carver player following in the footsteps of Isaiah Crowell, Gabe Wright, Devin Burns, Corey Crawford and Jarvis Jones. Kaleb Nobles of Fitzgerald also looks to have a nice sense of running a football team. Another quarterback for the West, William Gardner showed that he has some serious arm strength, with his ability to simply flick the ball 40 yards. On the defensive side for the West, Jordan Jenkins will be a serious player for Harris County but will likely be a DE instead of a DT as his Alabama-bound teammate LaMichael Fanning was. Mike Hilton of Sandy Creek also showed that he has the ability to carry the Patriots to a third straight state title.
For the East roster, Hosch showed better than Lambert and MLK’s Jonquel Dawson, though Dawson did lead a late scoring drive for the East. Perhaps Hosch was used to the constant rotating of rosters, but Lambert must work on his accuracy on the run. The Wayne County product does have four major scholarship offers, including Georgia, Alabama and Clemson. Peachtree Ridge’s Alex Gray was all over the field for the defense as he came up with an interception and made several nice pass breakups and a blocked extra point. The Stephenson defensive front also will be stout this season as Carlos Hood, Jafar Mann and Jarontay Jones were impressive on the East DLine all afternoon. Finally Tre Sorrells of Alcovy showed he has some nice moves at tailback and could be an under-the-radar back entering the 2011 season.
The bottom line of the 2011 AT&T Georgia Junior Bowl was that these players showed they are in fact ready for primetime and the upcoming season could be one of the better defensive classes in the last five year.