BY GENE NARDI
On Saturday, Jan. 2, local gridiron all-stars participated in the fourth annual Clash of Scholar Athletes all-star game at Boynton Beach High School. Team Florida put together a late rally in the fourth quarter to defeat Team Georgia 28-10.
Florida scored 21 points in the final seven minutes of the game to reclaim the Clash of Scholar Athletes trophy. Team Florida now leads the series 3-1.
Each year, the game has grown in popularity from Georgia down to Palm Beach County. On the Florida side of the field, one would have to search hard for an empty seat. There was a record crowd was in attendance.
Four local players helped lead Team Florida to victory. Royal Palm Beach’s Da’Von Brown, Marlon Eugene and Josh Carr competed in the game, along with Wellington’s Blake Dever.
Brown was a two-way standout for the Wildcats and was selected as All-County First-Team Defense. He recorded 77 tackles and returned two interceptions for touchdowns during the 2015 season. Brown has committed to Florida Atlantic University.
In Saturday’s game, Brown demonstrated why he’s one of the county’s best defensive backs; he broke up all but one pass that was thrown to his side on the night. “I knew that receiver was a big-time receiver, so I felt that I could be a big-time player tonight,” Brown said.
Eugene started as wide receiver for Royal Palm Beach, and was selected as the Sun-Sentinel’s All-County First-Team Offense. He was a key player in contributing to the Wildcats making the postseason and has interest from Cincinnati, Illinois and Middle Tennessee State.
“The coaches told us to make our mark,” Eugene said. “We brought the trophy back home.”
Carr played quarterback for the Wildcats and was honorable mention all-county. He led the Wildcats to a 6-5 season record and a playoff berth. Quarterback Blake Dever led the Wolverines to a 6-5 season record, district runner-up and a playoff berth. He was selected to the All-County First-Team Offense.
After transferring from St. Thomas Aquinas, Dever threw for nearly 2,800 yards and 31 touchdowns. He has interest from North Texas, Idaho, Ohio, Toledo and Northern Iowa. “It feels really good to be out here, and it’s crazy to see how many people are out here for the game,” Dever said.
Team Florida took an early lead, scoring on its first play from scrimmage, on an 85-yard touchdown pass, to go up 7-0, which held through the first half. Both teams moved the ball on occasion but suffered from turnovers.
Team Georgia responded with a safety, closing in on the Florida lead, then grabbed the lead with a quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line. A Georgia gamble to go for the two-point conversion paid off, and Georgia grasped its first and only lead of the game 10-7, with 10 minutes left to play in the game.
Powered by special teams and defense the rest of the way, Team Florida blocked a Georgia punt and returned it 24 yards for a score to regain the lead 14-10. Team Georgia had possession with three minutes on the clock but turned the ball over.
Four plays later, a 4-yard touchdown run extended the Florida lead to 21-10. Georgia, desperate to get into the end zone, went to the air, but an interception was returned 40 yards for a score to put the game out of reach for Georgia as Florida sat on a 28-10 lead with less than a minute to play.
Florida’s defense came up big again, when Eugene picked off the Georgia quarterback at the Florida 2-yard line and nearly scored on the return, but was tackled out of bounds at the Georgia 5.
Eugene’s interception put the icing on the cake for Team Florida to take back the Clash of Scholar Athletes trophy that Georgia had claimed last year.
All of the local players made an impact on the night in contributing to the Florida win. The game serves as an opportunity for players to showcase their abilities in hopes of drawing the attention of college coaches and scouts.
Many of the athletes will now prepare for college visits to determine their destiny in playing at the next level.
ABOVE: Local athletes celebrate with the Clash of Scholar Athletes trophy: (L-R) quarterback Blake Dever (Wellington), defensive back Da’Von Brown (Royal Palm Beach), receiver Marlon Eugene (Royal Palm Beach) and quarterback Josh Carr (Royal Palm Beach).