LOUISVILLE — There were no Tennessee All-Stars around to get riled up for, the stands at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium were pretty much empty, and it was rainy.
But that didn't keep more than 60 of Kentucky's top high school football players from putting on a decent show in last night's East-West All-Star football game.
Lone Oak's Corey Robinson, the all-time national leader in touchdown passes, threw for three scores and got a big boost in the running game from Kentucky State signee Matt Denham as the West posted a 41-10 win over the East in front of about 300 fans.
Denham was named the Most Valuable Player for the West after picking up 147 yards on 23 carries. He ran behind a line that was anchored by University of Kentucky signee Dave Ulinski.
”He really set the tone of the game by the way he ran the ball,“ said West Coach Kevin Wallace. ”We were able to keep them off balance by mixing the pass and the run.“
The game took the place of the old Kentucky-Tennessee All-Star game that was discontinued after last year, and considering the two teams only had three days of practice, the quality of play wasn't bad.
”I tell you, I've been coaching in all-star games for a long time, and this was as enjoyable of an experience as I've had,“ Wallace said. ”The kids came out and worked hard all week, we had no incidents, no trouble, and then we came out and played with focus.“
Jake Stephens, a Lafayette graduate who will walk on at Kentucky, produced the game's first points with a 23-yard field goal to give the East a 3-0 lead six minutes into the opening period.
Then Robinson went to work, hitting Manual's Gerry Cooper on a 39-yard sideline pattern before throwing a 37-yard dart over the middle to Bowling Green's D.L. Moore for a 7-3 West lead at 6:55 of the first.
The West's hard-hitting defense was led by UK signee Matt Smith. Smith was originally recruited by the Wildcats as an offensive lineman but picked up a sack and 3.5 tackles for loss as the anchor of the West's defensive line. The West outgained the East 441-130.
A pair of players from Trinity's state championship squad produced the only other points for the East, as quarterback Will Stein hooked up with Nathan Dutton on a 44-yard strike.
But the West quickly reclaimed the lead on a 10-play, 78-yard drive to start the second quarter, capped off by Denham's 13-yard run.
”He's a good one,“ Wallace said of Denham. ”A lot of schools missed the boat on him.“
Robinson added a 16-yard TD pass to another Bowling Green product, tight end Ryan Wallace, to push the lead to 20-10 with 1:01 left in the third. His final TD pass was a 4-yarder to Denham that pushed the margin to 34-10 early in the fourth period. Robinson finished 10-for-20 passing for 138 yards.
Another UK recruit, Lexington Catholic's Winston Guy, had a game-high nine tackles for the East. The East played without Henry Clay wide receiver Aaron Boyd, who elected not to participate.