Saturday’s FCA East-West Classic football game was largely unscripted. Mainly, it was a platform to showcase the best talent of seniors representing 16 area high schools.
With just three days of practice for the East and West squads, it was just enough time for the 40-player roster on each side to implement a bare-bones game plan.
However, the East ran a trick play to perfection that incorporated Jefferson High quarterback Bryce Moore and running back Justin Cole, along with Flowery Branch speedster Malik Drayton, during the fourth quarter of the game at Maginnis Field in Gainesville.
All day, Drayton was keeping the West defense occupied chasing him around on reverse plays and screen passes. So he proved to be the perfect middle man to run the play on a drive in the final minutes that ended in a field goal and iced the East’s 10-3 win at Riverside Military.
It was a pitch play from Moore to Drayton, who sprinted toward the sideline and tossed the ball to Cole. The Jefferson running back carried the ball to the other side of the field, then planted his feet and found his quarterback Moore open on the sideline for a 12-yard gain.
“Actually, we only practiced that play one time this week,” said Drayton, who helped Flowery Branch to the second round of the Class 5A playoffs in 2017.
After making the pass completion, Cole picked up three yards on a fourth and 2 deep inside West territory. Flowery Branch’s Alex Sanchez booted through a 23-yard field goal to cap the drive for the East, which was also made up of players from Lakeview Academy, East Hall, East Jackson, Johnson, Riverside Military and Banks County.
The West had the ball in the final minute, but the final pass deep down the field fell incomplete. The only points for the West came in the first quarter when West Hall’s Israel Lopez split the uprights on a 32-yard field goal, capping a six-play, 54-yard drive of all run plays.
Leading the way on offense for the West were Jackson County running back Noah Venable (eight carries, 70 yards) and White County’s Bailey Anderson (12 carries, 50 yards). Also playing for the West were players from Gainesville, Chestatee, North Hall and Commerce.
“It was a lot of fun to see all these guys come out here and have fun today,” said Gainesville coach Bruce Miller, who was head coach of the West roster. “Players on both sides were having a great time.”
The East got rhythm going on offense in the second quarter with a heavy dose of Cole and Drayton carrying the ball. Once the ball was inside the West’s 20, Moore had a pair of short runs up the middle, coupled with a pass interference call against the West, to get the ball down to the 1.
Moore dove in the for the score with 23 seconds remaining in the first half. Also working in the East’s favor was Flowery Branch defensive back Trey McIntosh, who came away with a pair of first-half interceptions.
The East put together another long drive in the third quarter, featuring two long runs on reverses by Drayton. With the ball at the 1, Moore was stopped shy of the goal line twice for a turnover on downs.
The West’s only sustained drive in the fourth quarter started with a 27-yard run out of the wildcat formation by Gainesville linebacker Keith Harris, but the drive stalled only a couple plays later when Drayton came away with a fumble recovery.
Moore finished the game completing 12 of 24 throws for 198 yards. Also for the East, Riverside Military wide receiver Charles Dimnwaobi had a pair of catches for 90 yards. On the game’s first play, he hauled in a pass of 40 yards on a flea flicker.