For the Tribune-Courier
CARBONDALE, Ill. – Limited to just three games during his senior campaign due to a string of nagging knee injuries, Marshall County middle linebacker Casey White made his last impression on the football field a memorable one.
White tallied a pair of pass deflections that were quickly converted into interceptions for the West Kentucky All-Stars, with one being returned five yards for a touchdown by Trigg County teammate John McGee, as the Purchase Area’s top senior football players thumped the Southern Illinois All-Stars 42-20 on Friday night at Southern Illinois University’s Saluki Stadium.
The Kentuckians won, closing Southern Illinois’ lead in the series to 4-3, in a contest that was nowhere near as the final score would indicate.
“I just couldn’t get close enough to catch those deflections,” White joked moments before being named the defensive Most Valuable Player. “I looked up and heard everybody going crazy and my man was in the end zone with the ball.”
Marshall County head coach Ron Barnard, who severed as the West Kentucky All-Stars special teams coach, gleamed like a proud papa when asked about White’s defensive effort.
“Our kids were physical,” Barnard said. “I hope that everybody saw our Marshall County kids dishing out good licks. Casey, Brock (Herndon), Noah (Steele) and Jamie (Gilland) all played well for us.”
Naturally, the chemistry of the West Kentucky All-Stars took a practice or two to gel once the normal school rivalries were ironed out.
“You have the Crittenden County-Caldwell County rivalry, the Mayfield-Paducah Tilghman rivalry, the Graves County-Marshall County rivalry, the Calloway County-Murray rivalry and so on,” Barnard explained. “So those rivalries were there the first day, but once they started sweating together, these kids came together as a team and started focusing on Southern Illinois.”
“It was a fun experience playing with all these different guys,” White said. “Now I’ve got guys that I call friends from Mayfield and Graves County.”
Keeping defensive schemes as basic as possible and running a spread offense that utilized wristbands to simplify learning multiple plays, the players came together Wednesday at Mid-Continent University with just a couple of days to install their offense, defense and special teams.
While the defensive schemes might have been vanilla to the expert football eye, there was nothing bland about the defensive effort that snagged three interceptions. West Kentucky limited Southern Illinois to a mere three first downs through the third quarter and less than 100 yards of offense.
West Kentucky struck first when Graves County’s Zach Katzman scored on a 9-yard jaunt up the middle. After Southern Illinois pulled within one point late in the opening frame, West Kentucky extended its lead to 21-6 at halftime thanks in part to a 40-yard touchdown pass from Calloway County’s Tyler Greer (7-of-10 for 97 yards) to Christian County’s Jeff Alexander and McGee’s 5-yard interception return for a touchdown.
In the second half, West Kentucky cruised to a 35-6 advantage midway through the third quarter. Christian County’s Kory Mosley, the offensive Most Valuable Player with 113 yards on 15 attempts, scored on a 2-yard run. Rivals Ryan Knight (Christian County) and Garrett Fann (Hopkinsville) hooked up for a 17-yard touchdown toss.
Mayfield’s Jonathan Jackson, a Murray State signee, capped off West Kentucky’s scoring with a 1-yard plunge with just under six minutes remaining in regulation.
The Kentuckians won for the second time in a row at Carbondale. They took a 14-12 victory in 2011. Southern Illinois won last year at Murray State’s Stewart Stadium 27-21.