Between the stacked talent level in the backfield and windy conditions, there was little doubt the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl was going to be determined by running backs.
Courtesy of one of those tailbacks, the West beat the East 35-0 Saturday at Doug Shaw Stadium, the West's first victory in the four-year history of the event.
West Rowan (N.C.) running back Kevin Parks ran for 197 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries, proving too much for the East squad.
"I wasn't going to take it as an all-star game," said Parks, who was actually a late addition to the game. "Every time I step out on the field, I have the mentality, my state of mind is to kill, the kill mode. I play hard. And I don't play around like some of these other guys, maybe."
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Parks, a Virginia commitment and the third-leading rusher in the nation during his career at West Rowan, scored on a 42-yard scamper with just more than 5 minutes left in the second quarter. On the play, Parks ran into a wall beyond the line of scrimmage, only to cut left and turn on the jets.
By the time he reached the end zone, no East player was within eight yards of the 5-foot-7, 190-pound tailback.
Parks then added a 3-yard scoring run just minutes into the second half, extending the West's lead to three touchdowns. His last score, an 11-yarder in the last two minutes of the game, came after he had already sealed game MVP honors.
Much of the reliance on tailbacks had to do with the howling wind at Doug Shaw. Quarterbacks from both sides were forced to wear gloves and struggled early to fight their passes through the conditions.
That left the running games and, for the most part, the West looked like it had the better prepared schemes.
It translated early in the game, when after Brennan Clay had 44 yards in his first two carries, quarterback Terrance Broadway faked a handoff and took it eight yards for the game's first score just 3:36 into the first quarter.
That score, along with Parks' first touchdown run, gave the West a 14-0 lead at half.
Parks and Co. extended that lead early in the third, taking advantage of the East squad's second turnover of the day.
East quarterback Dylan Favre took over the first possession of the second half. But on a third-down play, Favre's pass was batted back by West defensive end Kareem Martin (Roanoke Rapids, N.C.). The ball fell into the hands of a diving Darius Waters, giving the ball back to the West team on the opposing 17-yard line.
Four plays later, Parks punched in his second touchdown.
After a Case McCoy touchdown pass to Lakota West (Ohio) tight end Alex Smith, the West's defense made the victory stand.
"We had great [defensive] line play," Martin said. "All week, [the West coaching staff] have been teaching us about hand placement and getting back in the backfield. It's really been helping us out."
West players cherished finally getting their side into the win column against the previously unbeaten East squad. And it mattered little that the West's most influential player came was a player from North Carolina.
"We didn't really have to pass the ball much on our side," McCoy said, noting Parks' performance. "He's going to walk away with an MVP trophy. So it's all gonna be good.
"He's rushed for more yards than anyone I've ever heard of in high school football. He's an unbelievable player."