After dominating a majority of the fifth annual I-20 Bowl, the East All-Stars had to hang on to beat the West 24-21 Sunday afternoon at Ruston High School.

In possession of the ball with approximately two minutes to play, the East turned the football over, gifting the West the opportunity to make one final two-minute drive to claim victory. After a completion to Natchitoches Central’s Caylin Demars, the West got all the way to the 10-yard line with less than a minute to play in the contest. All of a sudden, a game that was centered around fun picked up its intensity level. Two fumbles by West players on the ensuing play bounced around on the ground before being recovered by Ouachita’s Jaylen Kincaid, as the East clung to the 24-21 victory.

“Man I was sweating it,” East All-Stars head coach Andy Robinson said. “We had a plan. We were going to run the ball and then punt it down deep and we felt like they would’ve had to drive the length of the field. The level picked up. And they were able to get that turnover at the end and won the game.”

It’s only fitting Kincaid, who also had an interception in the game, wound up with the football, as he, running back Marcell Henderson and defensive lineman Phil Bradford each had strong showings for the Lions in the All-Star Game.

“It was really good putting Ouachita back on the map,” Kincaid said. “We had a bad season last year, and then we turned it around this year. This is for the Ouachita community. It’s all love. They love us, and we love them back.”

Henderson earned Most Outstanding Player honors after rushing for 196 yards and two scores on 14 carries.

“I told my boy to go off today, and that’s why he went off,” Kincaid said, laughing.

“He gets credit,” Henderson retorted. “That first touchdown was big. That was the first play, and it gave us momentum.”

After the East forced a three-and-out from the West’s offense to start the game, Henderson took the pitch on the first offensive play from scrimmage and found the sideline on a 67-yard touchdown run.

The East All-Stars defense not only forced a second consecutive three-and-out, but after the West’s second possession, the East held the West to negative two yards in the early goings. Carroll’s Aneus Roberts and Sterlington’s Cliff Jones were responsible for the combined tackle for loss on that series, which led to the negative yardage.

A shanked punt followed by a 27-yard touchdown run from General Trass quarterback Wydett Williams had this one looking ugly from the jump. The East rushed for 291 yards in the victory.

“That’s what we represent with Northeast Louisiana,” Robinson said. “We take a lot of pride in that with our programs.”

The West became so desperate to get anything going offensively that it went for it on fourth down from its own 32-yard line on the third offensive possession. Ouachita’s Bradford and company recorded a tackle for loss on the fourth down attempt, though, to force a turnover on downs. The East took over at the 31, but a fumbled snap turned the football right back over to the West. No harm no foul for an East defense that allowed less than 30 yards in the first quarter.  

Jacob Green’s 37-yard field goal on the ensuing possession gave the East a commanding 17-0 lead with 1:29 remaining in the first quarter.

The West finally got some momentum at the start of the second quarter when Natchitoches Central’s Justin Aaron picked off Jonesboro-Hodge’s Tydre Malone. 

A roughing the passer call on an incomplete pass on third-and-long continued the West’s drive and got the All-Star squad inside the 35-yard line.

The West took advantage of the East’s miscues with a score. Loyola’s Jacob Lafitte bought some time in the backfield on fourth down and heaved one up for Captain Shreve’s William Moore in the back of the end zone for the 15-yard touchdown.

The West had an opportunity to get within a score after Lafitte produced more fourth down magic. This time he tossed up a 33-yard pass to Mansfield’s DQuinton Robinson deep in East territory. 

After reaching the red zone, the West had to settle for a field goal. Lafitte missed a 30-yard field goal attempt and two plays later Henderson raced toward the end zone on a 79-yard touchdown run to put the East back in front, 24-7, at halftime.

Ruston’s Dennis Williams and OCS’ Casey Cobb each recorded sacks in the first half for the East, and Ouachita’s Kincaid picked off Lafitte to end the half.

The West made things more interesting in the third quarter after a 10-play, 52-yard drive culminated in a 10-yard touchdown run from Natchitoches’ Demars. Trailing 24-14 late in the third quarter, the West climbed within a score after Demars scored his second touchdown of the game with six minutes to play.

With the East’s victory, Northeast Louisiana now has a 4-1 series lead in the I-20 Bowl.

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