North Gwinnett defensive end Dante Sawyer (95) of the East Team, covers Peach County High School's Chavis Dickey (79) of the West Team during the Georgia Junior Bowl played Monday at Grady Stadium in Atlanta.
ATLANTA — Myles Autry is expected to be one of the more highly recruited players in the state next season, but the speedy all-purpose offensive threat was limited to watching his Georgia Junior Bowl teammates from the sideline Monday.
Autry, who caught a fourth-quarter touchdown pass in Norcross’ comeback victory for the Class AAAAAA state title, put off knee surgery until later this week so he could participate in activities leading up the third annual RisingSeniors.com event.
“I didn’t want to miss all this,” he said.
But the East certainly could have used Autry in the game. Defense dominated as the West won 10-7 at a chilly Grady Stadium.
Thomas O’Leary of St. Pius had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds, but his 47-yard field goal attempt was short.
Josh Brown of Brookwood had the only touchdown for the East, catching a 7-yard pass from Gainesville’s Deshaun Watson with 33 seconds left in the first quarter.
But Brown wasn’t on the field when Watson, who led Gainesville to the Class AAAAA state title, just missed on two throws into the end zone prior to the missed kick.
Brown spent the closing minute on the bench icing his right ankle after suffering a sprain early on the final drive.
“It wasn’t the way I wanted this to end,” Brown said.
The story of the game from a Gwinnett perspective was Autry’s pending surgery, Brown’s high-and-low afternoon and the debut of Nick Glass representing Peachtree Ridge rather than St. Pius.
Glass, who started a safety for the East and made several tackles, transferred to Peachtree Ridge at the end of the first semester after St. Pius lost to Buford for the Class AAA state title.
“I’m all set at Peachtree Ridge,” said Glass, who wore a blue Lions helmet. “It was a lot of fun playing in this game and I’m excited about what’s ahead. I just wish that we had won the game.” If healthy, Autry would have been one of the most explosive players in the game. Instead, he was wearing black sweats and an Ohio State stocking cap as he tried to cheer on his East teammates.
Autry, who will take over for Alvin Kamara as the Norcross focal point next season, postponed surgery so he would be part of Junior Bowl activities.
“It was a lot of fun. I got to meet a lot of people,” Autry said. “There’s more to this than just the game and I got to take part in all of that.”
Autry tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus in the state semifinals against Colquitt County, but got in for about 15 plays in the title game at Georgia Dome wearing a brace.
He caught both passes thrown his way, including the TD grab.
“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” Autry said. “I told the coaches I could get open and I did. I just had to do it with one knee.”
Autry has offers from Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida and Florida State, among others. His older brother, Anthony, is a freshman receiver for the Yellow Jackets.
The knee injury certainly hasn’t scared colleges away.
“By June or July, I will be OK,” Autry said. “I will definitely be ready to go by August. It will be a big season for me and the team. I want another state championship.”
But he won’t get a chance for football and basketball titles in the same school year.
“That is the hard part,” said Autry, a starting guard for Norcross' basketball team as a sophomore last season.
Although Autry couldn’t play and all-state defensive end Lorenzo Carter decided to devote his time to basketball, Norcross still had three players in the Junior Bowl.
Trent Jenkins started at right tackle, while linebacker Kevin Mouhon and cornerback JaQuan Simpkins saw action on defense.
In addition to Autry, North Gwinnett wide receiver Nate Brown missed the game with a leg injury. He had his foot in a boot.
The winning points for the West came on a 25-yard field goal by A.J. Wells of Marion County with 40 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The West had taken an early lead on an 8-yard TD pass from Brooks Barden of Cartersville to Creekside’s Cameron Jackson with 5:03 remaining in the first quarter.
Other players from Gwinnett on the East team were Dante Sawyer of North Gwinnett, Dennis Edwards and Coray Keel of South Gwinnett, Bryce Lewis of Parkview and Christian Harris of Collins Hill.
Harris and Edwards were starting offensive linemen, while Sawyer started at defensive end and Lewis at cornerback.