No place like Dome for the holidays
by Doug Gorman
ATLANTA-There is nothing like winning a football game to put an athlete in the holiday spirit.
Nine senior players from Coweta high schools celebrated a few days early while helping lift the Central All-Stars squad past the North, 47-21 during the annual D.L. Scott Bowl Coalition Bowl at the Georgia Dome.
The event featured two varsity All-Star Games as well as six youth games as part of the day long event.
East Coweta quarterback Bryce Gemmel shared playing time with McIntosh quarterback Andrew Johnson en route to turning a close game early into a rout by halftime.
Gemmel threw a pair of interceptions, but was strong otherwise while finishing with 190 yards on 8 of 11 passing and a touchdown.
'It was great playing here in the Georgia Dome,' he said. 'I have always wanted to play here. It was also most like a camp atmosphere. It was fun to play with all of these great athletes.'
He wasn't the only local player to suit up for the Central squad. East Coweta senior teammates Markel Boston, Qua Fuller and Brock Meeker also were represented on the Central squad, though Boston - who is getting looks from Division I schools - was limited to just one snap before leaving after a leg injury. He had been practicing as a safety having also led East Coweta during the 2013 season as a No. 1 receiver and kick returner.
Fuller played on the offensive line protecting Gemmel while Meeker, who played tight end and defensive tackle, played on the defensive side of the ball in Saturday's game.
Newnan had five representatives on the Central roster, including three players on the defense. They included senior ends Chris Porter and Mark Harris as well as linebacker Tonarius Portress.
Anfeney Turner played with Fuller on the offensive line while Newnan's Walker Sandlin was the team's long snapper.
Northgate senior linebacker Ryan Fagerstrom represented the Vikings after finishing as the team's leading tackler during the 2013 season.
The opportunity to play one final game as a varsity player in the Georgia Dome was too good an opportunity not to pass up.
'Playing football is in my heart,' said Portress, whose offers include Air Force, Presbyterian and Kennesaw State. 'I will play whenever I get the chance. I took a week off from the basketball team for this, but I had to do it for this football team.'
Saturday's contest also forced players to put rivalries and differences aside, as instead of competing against players from the same region, they joined forces to win the game.'
In addition to East Coweta and Newnan players, several athletes from Region 3-AAAAAA champion Langston Hughes also played for the Central squad.
Fagerstrom also became teammates with several Region 4-AAAAA rivals during Saturday's all-star contest. Along with McIntosh, which also was represented by punter Charlie Goedtke and kicker Nick Alvey. Starr's Mill and Whitewater also had players on the roster including Wildcat standout linebacker Colton Clemons.
'There is a lot of talent out here. We train to beat them all year,' said Fagerstrom. 'This week, you have to be like friends and family. You have to be on the same page. Our common goal was to win.'
Along with the roster, the Central staff had a Coweta County flavor. From Newnan were head coach Mike McDonald, coordinators Kenny Morris and Jeff Bryant and assistants Adam Daigler and Bob Sandlin.
The staff also included Northgate head coach Tommy Walburn, Vikings offensive coordinator Kesley Dalrymple, East Coweta offensive coordinator Tom Gochenour and former Newnan football player Rico Zachary, now head coach at Central-Carroll.
Trailing 7-0 early in the first quarter, the Central squad rolled off four straight touchdowns to take a 28-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
After Johnson helped the Central squad to a 7-7 tie with a 41-yard drive that included passes of 17 and 23 yards, Central found the end zone on Langston Hughes' DeAndre Coleman's 5-yard run.
Gemmel then led Central on its next two scoring drives.
The Central All-Stars marched 68 yards in six plays for the go-ahead touchdown to take a lead for good.
Gemmel electrified the first scoring drive with a 29-yard pass to Langston Hughes' Kenny Moxie. Two plays later, the East Coweta quarterback ended the series with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Carver-Columbus standout Drelon Freeman to help Central go up 14-7.
With Gemmel running the offense two series later, Central marched 80 in eight plays. Again the East Coweta quarterback helped his team move the football with passes of 27 and 24 yards. Keion Davis, who ran over East Coweta and Newnan for Langston Hughes during the regular season, capped the drive with an 8-yard run for the 21-7 lead. Central then pushed the lead to 28-7 when Benny Gray rushed for his team's final touchdown of the first half.
Wide receiver Mark Quattlebaum broke a scoring drought for the North squad when he caught 12-yard pass from his Cartersville High School teammate Braden Brooks right before the end of the half.
Gemmel and his Central teammates weren't through just yet, generating one last scoring drive. With Sandlin handling the long-snapping duties on special teams Alvey booted a field goal.
Central added two more touchdowns in the second half and also came up with a safety to round out its scoring.
Defensively, Portress and Porter each finished with four tackles while Meeker and Fagerstrom had at least three and Harris a pair.
Fagerstrom was glad he could play one more game with his Northgate coaches Walburn and Dalyrimple.
'I am blessed to have these coaches in my life,' he said.
Gemmel spent the season picking up yardage with his arm and legs and it appeared he scored on a 9-yard touchdown run on one of the team's drives after taking a hard hit and bouncing off tackle and making it into the end zone, it was called back on a holding call.
Still, the day was worth it.
'It was a great experience,' he said. 'I am glad I was given this opportunity.'
For Portress, it meant having to step away from the basketball court for a week, to get a crack at playing in a postseason football game.
'It was an honor to get picked to play in this game,' he said. 'I missed a week of basketball, but i love football, and wouldn't miss this.'