52nd Annual East-West All-Star Football Game: Tulare Western’s Davis leads West to win
Mustang runningback Andrew Davis posts career highs in yards, touchdowns All-Star Game featuring the best seniors in Kings and Tulare Counties
VISALIA – Andrew Davis’ name didn’t stand out on the rosters of last weekend’s East West All-Star Game, but it will appear on the list of the game’s greatest performances in next year’s program.
The Tulare Western back drove the West squad’s offense as game’s leading rusher and tied for the most scores in the 52nd Tulare-Kings All-Star Football Game on Saturday at Groppetti Community Stadium in Visalia. Davis’ 179 yards rushing was a game- and career-best and his two touchdowns nearly matched his career total, four in the last four years for the Mustangs.
Davis got the West’s offense going in the first quarter when he scored a 5-yard touchdown at the four minute mark. A failed two-point conversion pass left the West trailing 8-6. The touchdown was set up by the Tulare Union’s Cole Howard converting a 4th and 1 to keep the drive alive. The two-point conversion failed giving the East an 8-6 first quarter lead.
After three quarters of trading touchdowns, Davis broke the game open for the West in the fourth quarter. After Hanford’s Joseph Estrella intercepted an East pass to end the third, West head coach and Davis’ Tulare Western head coach Ryan Rocha went back to his senior back who took the ball 36 yards for the touchdown and a 27-20 lead.
Davis shared co-MVP honors for the West with Sierra Pacific’s Jayson Littlejohn who made plays in all three phases of the game. Davis’ touchdowns may not have been enough to catch the East if Littlejohn had not made it difficult for the East to pass. He intercepted a pass near midfield on the game’s opening drive and nearly had another drive in the first quarter that he would have easily returned for a touchdown.
With the East leading 20-13 near the end of the third quarter, Littlejohn fielded one of the few punts in the game and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown tying the game at 20-20, with 1:46 left in the quarter.
When the West finally took back the lead early in the fourth quarter 27-20, Littlejohn snatched his second interception of the game in the end zone with 8:49 in the fourth quarter, preventing the East from tying the game. Hanford’s Joseph Estrella also had two interceptions for the West, including one that sealed the game with 1:17 left in the fourth quarter.
The East squad struck first on a 67-yard touchdown pass from Monache’s Antonio Andrade to Redwood’s La’Dre Aguilar. Aguilar led all receivers in the game with three catches for 82 yards. Aguilar was all over the field for the East Squad playing defensive back, wide receiver, and returning both kickoffs and punts, earning him MVP honors for the East squad. He pulled down a one-handed interception in the end zone to prevent a potential touchdown intended for Littlejohn.
Andrade led the East in passing completing seven passes for 135 yards.
Fresh off a state championship game, CVC’s Eric Dragt didn’t do much through the air but did do some damage with his feet. He took a quarterback keeper in from the 3-yard line to give the East a 20-13 lead with 6:27 left in the third quarter.
Mt. Whitney’s Jayden Pineda also had an impact on the game throwing a touchdown pass and running one in as the East’s leading rusher on the night with 83 yards on 12 carries. He made a spectacular run for a first down in the second quarter but fumbled and the West recovered in East territory. Tulare Western’s Keshon Butler took the ball in from the 25-yard line to give the West a 13-8 lead. Pineda redeemed himself later that quarter when he threw a 5-yard touchdown to Porterville’s Demario Ennis with 20 seconds left the half. The two-point conversion failed but still gave the East a 14-13 halftime lead. It was a rough night for Pineda who had four turnovers in the game including three interceptions. Before the game ended, Pineda was able to score on a 3-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion toss with 3:44 left in the fourth quarter.
Rocha collected his third victory as the All-Star game head coach. In 2014, Rocha led the West squad to a 28-7 win. In 2017, Rocha’s squad claimed a 14-13 victory for the West. In 2009, he made his first appearance as an assistant coach under the El Diamante coach Mark Rogers.
The East was led by first-time All Star coach Michael Machado. In two seasons with the Porterville Panthers, Machado has led the team to their first winning season in five years and their first playoff appearance in four seasons.