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West holds off Gwinnett-heavy East in annual Junior Bowl

ATLANTA -- In a game that was seemingly one-sided according to the statistics, turned out to be a victory for the other team, as the Gwinnett-heavy East team fell to the West, 27-20, at the Georgia Junior Bowl at Grady Stadium.

The East dominated in passing and on the defensive side of the ball for three-and-a-half quarters, but special teams mistakes ended up being the deciding factor as the West held on for the win.

Shining for the East on offense was Norcross' Alvin Kamara, who finished the game with eight catches for 115 yards.

"I just came in confident and knew I had it in me," Kamara said. "I know I can compete with the best players in the state."

With the seven-point lead and less than 20 seconds to go, the West team set up to punt the ball and pin the East deep in its own territory for the final plays of the game.

However, Grayson's Jack Banda had a better idea and slashed through the middle of the punt formation, blocking the punt and recovering it on the 26-yard line to set up the East with a better chance to win or tie the game.

It wasn't meant to be, though, as two incompletions, including the final one in the back of the end zone intended for Kamara went incomplete to give the West the win.

"I turned and looked for the ball, but the (defensive back) got to me before I could make a good jump on the ball," he said.

The first half was highlighted by two special teams' mistakes by the East as the West team blocked two punts. The first blocked punt was recovered on the 15-yard line, and three plays later, Calhoun's Taylor Lamb took it in from three yards out.

On the second blocked punt, Spalding's Jevaris Jones blocked the punt and took the ball into the end zone for the score, putting West up 14-7.

East tied the score on its next drive, using two completions for 55 yards to Kamara to set up the score when Alpharetta's Joshua Dobbs found Elbert County's Tyshon Dye for a five-yard pass in the end zone.

However, the lead wouldn't last long as Newnan's Tray Matthews took the ensuing kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown to put the West back up.

In the third quarter, West pushed the ball down field, but were stopped outside the 20-yard line, starting with a big hit to break up a first-down pass play by Parkview's Kyle Williams.

"I knew I couldn't get to the ball, so I just focused on hitting the man," Williams said.

The drive stalled there, and the East took over, driving down the field until it got a one-yard score on a pass play from Dobbs to Alpharetta teammate Carlos Burse. But, the extra point was blocked to preserve West's lead at 21-20.

West threatened to score early in the fourth quarter, driving down to the one-yard line, but the East made a goal-line stand, culminating on a fourth-down pass breakup by North Gwinnett's Donnie Myles, who finished the game with four pass break-ups and two tackles.

East then drove the ball down to the 33-yard line, but an interception was thrown by Dobbs as he was looking for Kamara again, turning the ball over to the West.

West later scored on a long touchdown run by Walton's Tyren Jones, but the East still had a chance as the extra point was missed.

After stalled drives on both sides, West had a chance to put the game away, but the blocked punt thwarted those plans.

On defense, Mill Creek's Kelsey Griffin was the third-leading tackler with six, including two for loss, while Williams finished with six tackles as well. Peachtree Ridge's Tony Porter added three tackles.

Buford's David Petroni had four punts for a 48.8 average, including a long of 57 yards.

Although the game was exciting for the fans to watch, Duluth head coach Corey Jarvis said the main thing he and the other coaches wanted the players to get out of the week were the things that would happen off the field.

"These guys are going to go to junior days together and go through the entire recruiting process together," he said. "They've made some lasting friendships this week. But, we want these guys to understand the pitfalls that come with this game off the field. We want them to be better men."

Jarvis admitted to his team on the first day of practice, that he wouldn't mind putting them on a bus and taking them back to Duluth with them.

"Any coach would love to have any of these guys on their teams," he said.

Kamara said the overall experience of the week is something he'll remember forever.

"I heard about Tray Williams and some other guys from around the state and it was fun to play with and against these guys," Kamara said. "It was a good experience."