Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Sports

June 16, 2014

Johnson County well-represented at all-star football game

BEDFORD — Several football players from Johnson County were represented in the North Texas Bowl/DFW East-West Classic at Pennington Field on Saturday.

The East defeated the West, 31-28, in overtime in a competitive exhibition game between some of the area’s greatest football talent.

Burleson Coach Gary McElroy was the head coach for the West team as led more than 10 players from Johnson County while new Godley Coach Duke Dalton was an assistant for the East squad.

Representing Burleson were Ayinde Alaajiy, Gerald Hatch, Jacob Lidgett, Austin Murrell, Rodney Nickerson and Trayvon Webb while Centennial was represented by Ron Reid and Demarcus Williams. Joshua’s Garrett Hoffman and Kendrick Turner and Godley’s Skyler Lenz, Jerry Taft and Rachael Evans rounded out the county’s participants in the fourth annual edition of the all-star game. Burleson’s Isaiah Hall and Godley’s Dylan Washington made the rosters but did not participate.

“I thought it was an outstanding experience,” Dalton said. “That was the first time for me to do that and to see the talent that we have in the DFW Metroplex was unbelievable. There’s a lot of kids on those teams that can definitely play at the next level.”

Having three players from a Class 2A school represented in an all-star game was huge for the Wildcats’ program, Dalton said. And with Evans’ appearance, it marked the first time a female participated in a football all-star game.

“Obviously, it says volumes about our program to be able to field three players for an all-star game,” he said. “Rachael coming in being the first-ever female to compete in an all-star game, but not only did she compete, but she contributed and went 2-for-2 in extra points. Jerry Taft played quite a bit defensively. Skyler Lenz started offensively and played much of the first half before he sustained an injury. I talked to them after the game ... and they had a real positive experience.”

McElroy said having so many of his Elks players, along with several Johnson County players, made the experience much more enjoyable.

“It was fun,” McElroy said. “We had a good group of kids that were energetic and motivated, that wanted to be there, wanted to play and worked hard for it. It was really enjoyable and we had a good time. I’ve coached in an all-star game before, and it wasn’t the same — we had kids that weren’t that motivated and didn’t want to be there, so this was really enjoyable.

“I think that’s a credit to Johnson County and the schools here [to have that many kids from Burleson and Johnson County]. That’s good. We had a couple of good players from Centennial and had some of my own that were there. It made life easier having some familiar faces. Any time a school district has some players get nominated for an all-star game, that says a lot about the school system as well as the athletic program.”

McElroy said that while it was a first to have a female participate in the game, Evans was an ideal teammate and player to coach.

“I know she’s a female, but there wasn’t anything special about it because she was business as usual just like everybody else,” McElroy said. “She conducted herself like everybody else. She kicked as well as the boys did. All week long, she handled herself just like any other player. As far as the coaching staff’s approach to it, she was another player out there. She did a good job. She’s a pretty dang good kicker.”

Dalton said being chosen for an all-star game no matter male or female is high praise and that Evans is a good example for young girls who might want to play football.

“It’s great for football player regardless female or male to go play in those things to get exposure and notoriety,” Dalton said. “Maybe it will encourage some other females on down the line. I didn’t get a chance to hang out with them much being on the other side, but from the time she was there to the time it was over, everyone seemed like they were very encouraging and seemed like she had a very good time.”

As one of the team’s head coaches, McElroy said he made it a point to get everyone involved in the game so they could experience playing in an all-star game.

“We wanted to win but at the same time we had those kids’ experience in mind,” he said. “We made sure we got everybody in the game. From an offensive standpoint, if you’re a wide receiver and get asked to come to the all-star game, they didn’t ask you to come to block, so we tried to throw the ball as much as we could and get every running back a carry or two and get every quarterback in the game. We had the players’ best interest in mind. Win, lose or draw, it’s about those kids.”

Waco’s O.C. Beasley was voted game MVP.

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