By T. Scott Boatright
The Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s I-20 Bowl has always been played on James Field at Ruston High School’s L.J. “Hoss” Garrett Stadium, so it was fitting that a number of players from all three Lincoln Parish prep football teams saw action in Sunday afternoon’s fifth annual edition of the event.
The East All-Stars controlled the game early before holding off a late rally try by the West team to earn the 24-21 win.
Six players represented Lincoln Parish on the East team — RHS fullback Devian Wilson, wide receiver Dawson Willis, offensive lineman Michah Scheer and defensive lineman Dennis Williams represented the Bearcats while Cedar Creek linebacker Carson Riley and Lincoln Preparatory School return specialist D’Mitry Payne rounded out local players.
RHS assistant coach Kai Burrell also served on the coaching staff for the East defense.
“It was a great week capped off by a great game,” said East head coach Andy Robinson of St. Frederick High School. “I think the players really got a lot out of the whole experience.”
Wilson wasn’t added to the East roster until Thursday.
“So he only got a couple days of practice,” Baugh said. “They called me on the Thursday before the game because they were looking for a fullback, and he was glad to go get a couple of practices in, and he played well.”
Payne was another late addition to the team.
“We brought him in as a receiver and he returned some kicks for us, and I thought he had a really nice game,” Robinson said about the Lincoln Prep standout. “We made 16 changes to the original 26-man roster. Those four Ruston guys did good for us, too.
“I had heard about (Payne) from a lot of people and obviously a lot of media people hadn’t gotten a chance to see him. He played some receiver for us, too, based on need. It worked out well. To come out with the win we were excited to do that for northeast Louisiana high school football.”
Robinson was also impressed by the play of Riley, who faced off against St. Frederick in regular-season play.
“He did OK rotating in,” Robinson said about Riley. “We had five linebackers on the roster. But I thought he had a good week, and I was excited to see him out there representing Cedar Creek. He had a great season, and I was pleased to have him on the team.”
Baugh served as director for the event, and while keeping things running smoothly tried to keep an eye on his Bearcats playing in the contest.
“Dawson had a catch, and Williams had a sack for us and made several other plays,” said Baugh. “Devian had several carries. Micah played guard mainly but he took some snaps at center. He played both of those positions for us this season.”
Baugh was also pleased about the way the event as a whole turned out.
“I thought we had a really good crowd,” Baugh said about the day. “Normally the game is played on a Saturday afternoon, but the organizers moved it to Sunday because of the Independence Bowl going on Saturday afternoon because they didn’t want the two to conflict. But there was a good turnout for a really competitive game.
“The East jumped out to an early lead but the rest came back and made a good run at it. They had the ball at the end with a chance to go ahead but fumbled there at the end, helping the East pull it out.”
As far as some of his players getting a chance to play on the next level, Baugh admitted that the NCAA transfer portal makes that hard to figure out in this day and age.
“I’m hoping they get an opportunity to play on the next level,” he said. “They’re all four talented and deserving. And all four of those kids have a 3.0 or above GPA, so I think college is in their future. But as far as recruiting I really just don’t know what they’re future is. (RHS safety) BJ Green was selected, but opted out after he signed early with Oklahoma to run track there and has only a few weeks before our indoor season begins.
“Right now there’s not even many of those kids you see that are out there getting through the transfer portal that are getting picked up by anybody. I’m hoping, but there are so many kids out there right now. So I just don’t know as far as our kids being recruited.”
Ouachita running back Marcel Henderson was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player after running for 196 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.
The win gave the East team a 4-1 advantage in I-20 Bowl series history.
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