By TOMMY WELLS
KNOX CITY – If there were any questions as to whether Strawn’s Cole Abbott and Gordon’s Michael Cherry were among the best six-man football athletes on the planet, all doubts were erased Saturday in front of a large crowd at the inaugural Brazos Bowl All-Star Game. And they were erased easily.
Abbott earned the defensive MVP honors while leading the Red all-stars to a wild 41-33 win over the Blue in the contest, which was played at Greyhound Stadium. Cherry earned the offensive MVP honors as the Blue all-stars’ top performer.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Abbott, who returned an interception for a touchdown and hauled in a 58-yard scoring reception late in the second half to help the Red team secure the victory. “We couldn’t have had a better time.”
The Red all-stars didn’t waste any time in taking the upper hand in the contest. The team scored twice in the first 3:18 and built a quick 14-0 lead.
After forcing the Blue all-stars to turn the ball over downs on their first possession, the Red all-stars untethered its offense. After three running plays had moved the ball to the Blue 28, Buchanan took a pitch from Woodson’s Brady Hibbitts, slipped a tackle in the backfield and raced into the end zone.
Buchanan run gave the Red an 8-0 lead with 9:21 remaining in the first.
The Red’s lead didn’t stay at 8 for long. Abbott made sure of that.
The Strawn standout picked off a Blue pass at his own 14 and raced 66 yards the other way for a 14-0 advantage with 7:42 left in the opening frame.
Cherry wouldn’t let the Blue all-stars struggle for long.
The Gordon spreadback carried the ball three times on the Blue team’s ensuing possession, including a key 6-yard scamper on a fourth down play that gave the Blue a first down at the Red 8.
Two plays later, Valley’s Carson Proctor crashed into the end zone to cut the Red lead to 14-8.
The Red all-stars regained the upper hand early in the second quarter. Aquilla High School’s Billy Parks hauled in a 12-yard scoring pass from Hedley’s Coltin Kingston on a fourth-down play. Paducah’s Cody Austin passed to Abbott for the two-point conversion, giving the Red with a 22-8 lead just three seconds into the second quarter.
The Blue all-stars rallied back, however. The team scored twice from there, scoring on a 30-yard pass to Hedley’s Nicco Bennett and a 2-yard run by Proctor and pulled to within 21-20 with 40 seconds left in the first half.
Buchanan gave the Red all-stars the momentum back from there.
After Austin had recovered an onside kickoff attempt, Buchanan took a pitch from Hibbitts and raced 50 yards for his second TD of the contest.
He finished the game with 132 yards on 13 carries, and earned the contest’s overall MVP honors.
Cherry, who rushed for 125 yards on 17 carries, brought the Blue all-stars back to within striking distance in the third quarter. He capped a 4-play, 53-yard drive by turning a handoff into a 10-yard scoring run.
Cherry’s TD pulled the Blue to within 29-27 with 5:46 left in the third.
Abbott took the wind out of the Blue’s sails just over four minutes later on a key fourth-down play.
With the Red all-stars leading by two, the SHS center caught a clutch 58-yard touchdown pass from Buchanan on a fourth-down play. His TD gave the Red team a 35-27 lead heading into the final 10 minutes of play.
The Red all-stars all but cinched the game midway through the fourth quarter, taking a 41-27 lead on a 46-yard TD run by Buchanan.
The Blue team pulled close with 1:42 remaining on a four–yard touchdown run by Motley County’s Juan Flores.
By TOMMY WELLS
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