LAND O’ LAKES — The 7th Annual Pasco County East vs. West All-Star Game moved back to its normal location of Sunlake High School after being played at Bishop McLaughlin last year because of coronavirus pandemic restrictions that were in place.
With the game back in its rightful spot, the East decided to go throwback in terms of offensive game play. That meant running the football early and often to aid an equally excellent defensive strategy.
The East got big nights out of running backs Jaylin Thomas and Willie Queen, rolling to a 21-6 victory Friday night and taking a 4-3 lead in the series.
“We’ve been playing together for the last four years and we’ve always waited for this moment to show we are a couple of the best backs in Pasco,” Thomas said of lining up with his Zephyrhills teammate. “It was cool to win with people we played against during the season. I learned a lot about each the past couple of weeks.”
East head coach Trac Baughn (Land O' Lakes) appeared to take a page out of the New England Patriots’ Monday Night Football playbook while leading his team to victory Friday, running the ball on 25 of 27 first-half snaps.
“When we got out there to practice, it was pretty obvious that running the ball is what we were going to do well,” Baughn said. “We have some really good offensive linemen and really good running backs and that’s how we felt like we were going to win this thing.”
The opening possession of the game was a 10-play drive by the East and all 10 were runs, ending with a 10-yard touchdown run by Thomas. The West's ensuing possession ended in a three-and-out.
One bright spot for the West was the kicking game, led by Sunlake’s Daniel Lester, who hit two 40-plus-yard field goal attempts. Lester's 45-yard make set a All-Star game record, breaking the old mark of 41 yards set by Michael Webster. Other than the two field goals, offense didn't come easy for coach Tim Hicks and the West.
Plenty of county coaches came by to watch their players take part in the game, including new Pasco High hire Alphonso Freeney, Mitchell’s Andy Schmitz and Wiregrass Ranch's Mark Kantor.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.