SAN ANTONIO -- Wide receiver James Quick caught the game-winning, 34-yard touchdown pass and received the Pete Dawkins Most Valuable Player trophy for helping the East to a 15-8 victory over the West in the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Saturday, at the Alamodome.
Quick caught three passes for 71 yards and returned a punt 31 yards, giving him a game-high 102 all-purpose yards before an Army All-American Bowl record crowd of 40,133 and a national television audience on NBC.
Since it was on a national stage and I got to do it with people I just met and actually got to bond with, it means a lot — it’s probably going to be one of my greatest memories,” said Quick, a senior at Trinity High School in Louisville, Ky., who announced during the game that he would stay home and play college football for Louisville. Quick chose the Cardinals over Ohio State and Oregon, ending one of the most highly followed recruiting sagas in the history of Louisville football.
Quick’s touchdown reception from Auburn-bound quarterback Jeremy Johnson of Montgomery High School in Montgomery, Ala., gave the East a 13-8 lead with 3 minutes, 59 seconds remaining in the game.
“We were waiting until fourth down to make that call to James because we wanted to make sure they were in zero coverage,” said East head coach Robert Bailey of Trinity High in Louisville.
“We didn’t want to do it on first or second down because we knew they would be in zone, so we waited until fourth down when we had to. Jeremy Johnson, the quarterback, had to escape a little pressure and made a great, great throw.
“It kind of hung a little bit, but you teach receivers to go and get it at its highest point and last time I looked, he was a pretty good athlete. He went up there and got it.”
Alabama-bound running back Derrick Henry, the number 1 career rushing leader in high school football history, with 11,610 yards for Yulee High School in Yulee, Fla., capped the scoring with a 3-yard sweep around right end for the two-point conversion.
Beatty figured the call was a no-brainer.
“We went to an unbalanced set and we felt like we could get it,” Beatty said. “He’s a horse, man. He’s 240 pounds with a lot of speed. The kid in front of him, Derrick Green, did a great job of blocking with our unbalanced line. We felt like we could get to the edge. We told him to stretch, stretch, stretch until they couldn’t take it away anymore, and consequently he got the edge and you saw what happened.”
Henry, who rushed for a game-high 53 yards on 10 carries, also scored the East’s first touchdown on a 2-yard run in the first quarter. Jim Cooper of Mainland Regional High School in Linwood, N.J., kicked the point after touchdown for a 7-0 lead.
The West led briefly in the fourth quarter via Texas A&M-bound wide receiver Derrick Griffin’s 16-yard touchdown reception from University of Southern California-bound Max Browne of Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash. Browne connected with Louisiana State University-bound tight end DeSean Smith for the two-point conversion and an 8-7 lead with 6:49 remaining.
The West scoring drive was highlighted by Browne’s completions of 19 yards to Ezekiel Elliott of John Burroughs High School in St. Louis, and 14 yards to USC-bound Steven Mitchell of Bishop Alemany High in Mission Hills, Calif., along with a pass-interference penalty that gave the West a first down at the East 44-yard line.
The East quickly answered with Virginia Tech-bound Taquan Mizzell’s 72-yard kickoff return to the West 28, followed by Quick’s touchdown reception from Johnson in a climactic, fourth-and-16 situation.
East defensive line coach Dwayne Thomas of Eastern Christian Academy in Elkton, Md., said his group succeeded with speed and a winning attitude set by Beatty.
“We stunted, we slanted, we pinched,” Thomas said. “When you get guys up front that are hungry and relentless, the other team has got a problem. We controlled the game in the trenches.”
The East limited the West to four first downs and 90 total yards.
Quick said the weeklong experience in “Military City USA,” exceeded his expectations. Each of the 90 players in the game was paired with a “Soldier-Hero,” who accompanied them to pre-game events and escorted them onto the field for pre-game introductions.
“When I met my Soldier, he told me his life story and I really wasn’t expecting that, so I told him mine,” Quick said. “Having someone to talk to, keeping that bond with your Soldier is really what helped me out.
“He was a younger guy, and he didn’t like me calling him ‘sir.’ He told me: ‘Just call me Justin.’ We had a real heart-to-heart talk about things that happened in war and things that he’s been going through with his back problem. They really do a lot more than what people think. With them telling you what they do that you don’t know of, it really changes the way that you think about how good you have it because most people don’t have it the way you do.”
Most kids don’t grow up to be U.S. Army All-American football players, a sure-fire step to an NCAA Division I football grant-in-aid. More than 175 alumni of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl are currently playing in the National Football League, including Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, and New York Jets quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow.
“Kids need role models,” Thomas said. “I’ve got my hand around their neck and they don’t know if I’m choking them or hugging them, but they want discipline. They want somebody who has purpose, passion and commitment, and somebody who is going to teach them and push them towards discipline.
“We set a tone early in the week and those guys met the challenge. I’m proud for them that their last high-school game was a victory and it was amongst the best in the country. Now they can go to college with a real sense of confidence.”