Photo by Derrick Mahone / North Clayton Middle School coach Alonzo Robinson talks to his team during a timeout at the Clayton County Middle School All-Star game on Monday at Tara Stadium.
JONESBORO — Just six days removed from the conclusion of the Clayton County Middle School football season, some of the area’s best young football talent got another chance to shine in Monday’s middle school all-star game.
Eddie White Academy running back Devonte Carswell had a rushing touchdown and returned the second half kickoff 68 yards for a score to distance the South squad and give it a 29-6 victory over the North team at Tara Stadium.
The South, which featured players from Riverdale, Kendrick, Mundy’s Mill, M.D. Roberts, Jonesboro, Lovejoy, Pointe South Middle and Eddie White Academy, dominated the game after giving up the first touchdown to the North.
Carswell’s performance notched him player of the game accolades, and praise from South squad coach James Crawford.
“He’s a player that I had to coach against during the regular season at Eddie White,” said Crawford, who is Mundy’s Mill’s head coach. “I already know what kind of player he is. And he’s one of those who can immediately make an impact on the high school level.”
Although it was an exhibition contest, the middle school players were popping pads and flying to the ball with a playoff-like intensity.
And the fierce competition was, in North coach Alonzo Robinson’s opinion, a much needed showcase for the fans who came out.
“This just shows the kind of talent we have at this level,” said Robinso, n who is the North Clayton coach. “We have some ultra talented kids in this county who work hard and it showed tonight.”
Jackson agreed, adding that the game was a sort of sneak preview for what Clayton County high school football has to look forward to.
“Everybody’s getting ready to find out real soon what kind of players this county has to offer,” Jackson said. “We get a bad wrap around (Clayton County) a lot. We’re tired of the negative publicity we get around here, but people need to get ready to see a lot of championships come out of these kids.”
County champion Rex Mill Middle led the way for the North with seven players on the all-star team. All star players are determined by each head coach selecting his five best athletes — two of which have to be linemen — and the selections are paired down from there.
In addition to Rex Mill, it was North Clayton, Babb, Forest Park, Adamson, Morrow and Sequoyah middle schools made up the North.
It was the North that jumped out to an early 6-0 lead when Sequoyah quarterback Dominic Hilliard connected with Adamson’s Calder Marria for a six-yard scoring strike with 3:40 left in the first quarter.
The South’s Carswell answered with a 33-yard touchdown scamper. Then M.D. Roberts quarterback Cory Turner found teammate Lenox Copeland on a pass for the two point conversion which gave the South an 8-6 lead.
Each team went through stretches of sloppy play, trading penalties and turnovers at an almost even rate. But the South found the endzone again when Justin Giles (Jonesboro Middle School) forced a fumble on the North’s quarterback, scooping it and scoring on an 84-yard touchdown jaunt.
Carswell’s kick return to open the second half pushed the South’s lead to 22-6 and running back Jalen Green (Mundy’s Mill) capped the scoring with his three yard touchdown run.
Sequoyah running back Tre’Vion Baker won player of the game honors for the North.
After the game, both Robinson and Crawford waxed nostalgic of their times as North Clayton middle and high school students.
Both played football there together. Both went to Fort Valley State for college. Both had chances to move on to jobs outside of the area.
And both said they decided that Clayton County is where they wanted to be.
As they spoke of their local allegiance, almost on cue, two of the South side’s cheerleaders ran by and shouted out, “Thank you Coach! Good job tonight.”
Crawford, who’s worked and coached in the county for the last 13 years smiled wide.
“It’s good to give back,” Crawford said. “It’s all about these kids out here. You put ego aside. It’s not about self.”