Tailback Brandon Barnett and Darren McFadden both showed why the University of Arkansas football program wanted to sign them so bad last February.
But it was Barnett who walked away with the MVP honors and the win in Friday night's Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star Game.
Barnett scored three touchdowns - two via the air and one on the ground - while rushing for 95 yards and catching 3 passes for another 31 yards in his West team's 28-13 win over the East before a crowd estimated at 6,000 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
"I just wanted to come out here, do what I do best and stick with it," Barnett said afterwards. "What can they get in here - 70,000 people? I can already picture it now. It's a great feeling to be out here. I know (UA head) Coach (Houston) Nutt has a lot in store for me so I am going to try and buckle up and do what I have to do and get back to them."
That getting back is a reference to the fact that former Texarkana standout Barnett (5-8, 190, 4.4) is likely destined for either Hargrave Military Academy or Butler County (Kan.) Community College - a place he will visit on Saturday.
There's no doubt he would rather be at Arkansas next season with McFadden and fellow UA scholarship signees and all-stars Jamar Love, Cord Gray and Elston Forte.
"It hurts me a little bit to think about it, but I can't get down right now," Barnett said. "I just have got to do what I can. It's all good. I'll be here. I'm a Razorback. I'll be back."
When he does return, he will join his brother, fellow Texarkana standout and current Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College defensive tackle Freddie Barnett (6-2, 305) - who watched him shine on Friday night and should transfer to Arkansas at mid-term next season - in being a Razorback.
I am still waiting on my test scores to come back," Barnett said. "Someone told me that Arkansas has a test on July 1 and you can get your scores back the next day so I am going to do that. If I don't pass it, I can't get down. I have worked too hard for this. I will just eventually come here and be a Razorback. My brother will be here in December and I would love to be with him."
West head coach Gus Malzahn said he knew he had something special in Barnett.
" "We just wanted to find different ways to get him the ball outside and inside," Malzahn said. "He is a good inside runner, not a big guy, but can run inside as well. We didn't throw the football down the field as much in the second half because he kind of had a calf problem, but he can also catch the ball down the field. He is just very versatile."
McFadden (6-2, 210, 4.33) looked almost as good and was named the East team's Outstanding Back after he rushed 14 times for 75 yards and a score and also caught 2 passes for 35 yards.
"We came out here and played hard and I think we could have won it but they got us out of our game a little bit," McFadden said. "I am glad Brandon got the MVP. If I didn't get it I wanted one of the Razorback guys to get it."
Barnett scored the game's first touchdown on a two-yard pass reception from Johnny Brewer in the first quarter and then broke free on a reverse for 63 yards and a score that pushed his team ahead 14-6 in the second quarter.
"There were a lot of Arkansas signees out there that were real good and all I can do is perform like I know how to perform," Barnett said.
The West should have taken at least a 27-6 lead into the half, but referees ruled that Josh Brown fumbled before he got into the end zone on a 46-yard connection from Central Arkansas Christian quarterback Jesse Gates.
Replays on the Razorback Stadium Jumbotron showed Brown clearly had broken the plane before fumbling and having it recovered by Forte of Little Rock Mills.
"I knew Coach Malzahn had something up his sleeve for the second half so I wasn't too much worried about it," Barnett said.
McFadden had just 16 yards on five carries at half and lost seven on his first carry of the second, but then showed why he is considered one of the nation's best backs.
He had 18 and 8, took a screen pass 22 yards while breaking tackles and then scored from 18 yards and coupled with the PAT made it 21-13 with 8:11 remaining in the third quarter.
"I felt like we were coming on right then," McFadden said. "I thought we were going to come roaring back."
Because of a rule that allows you to have the ball back in the second half if you are down by eight points or more, the East actually had a chance to tie the game without the West even touching the ball in the second half.
McFadden had bursts of 6 and 7 and then took a screen pass 22 yards to set up the East with a first down at the West 44, but a Jamelle Brown interception of Little Rock Central quarterback and UA walk on Clark Irwin stymied that drive.
The West - who benefitted all night from four 50-yard plus punts from Mount Ida's Alex O'Neal - then put the game away late in the fourth after another interception.
El Dorado quarterback John Thomas Shepherd flipped a screen pass to Barnett, who made it to the pylon to give his team the two-touchdown lead.
"There was very good talent on both sides of the football, but we just happen to make a few more big plays than they did," Malzahn said. "I very happy for all these guys. They worked very hard for this win."
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