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TC’s Barnes, Coker Enjoy All-Star Experience

DB Barnes makes key tackle, Coker plays slot receiver, special teams.

T.C. Williams defensive back Kentdrick Barnes made a key fourth-and-goal tackle and nearly intercepted a pass. Receiver Aziz Coker was hit more in one week of practice than he was during his three-year TC career. While the Titans were on opposite ends of punishment distribution, they both enjoyed their experience as members of the Northern Region all-star team.

Facing the best players from the Northwest Region, Barnes and Coker helped the North pull out a 20-17 overtime victory during the 2010 Region Rumble All-Star Football Game on June 19 at South County Secondary School.

Barnes’ biggest impact came with less than nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The Northern Region led 14-6 but the Northwest had the ball on the North 8-yard line facing fourth-and-goal. A timeout was called before the play and the speedy Barnes entered the game in place of a linebacker to cover Northwest receiver Christian Ocasto (Potomac). Ocasto ran an out pattern and caught a pass from quarterback Bo Revell (Battlefield), but Barnes dropped Ocasto at the 5, giving the ball back to the Northern Region.

"I was excited. I had gotten into the zone," Barnes said of his mindset before taking the field for the fourth-down play. "That was my whole thing before I went on the field: get in the zone. I got in the zone, I made sure that I wasn’t thinking too much and I just let it come natural."

Barnes broke up a second-quarter pass and nearly came down with an interception.

"I EXPECTED it to be challenging like it was," he said of playing with and against some of the top talent in the state. "I knew that with all the great athletes we had that I had to go out and play my hardest in order to stay on the field. They gave everybody a shot and depending on how you played they decided whether you were going to be on the field or not.

"I played my heart out and tried to do the best I could. It was amazing. The speed and all the athletes, it really challenged me. I figure if I can play with them I can go on to the next level and play."

Barnes said he is going to try to walk on as a cornerback at West Virginia University.

Coker played receiver and special teams during the game. The speedster played outside receiver during his TC career, but was moved inside to slot receiver for all-star practices and the game. The result: more contact.

"I got hit a lot," Coker said. "It was kind of new to me. [During practices there was ] no mercy."

Coker quickly got over some pregame doubts when he stepped on the field.

"I thought they were going to be way better than me," he said. "But when we stepped on the field we were all the same caliber."

Coker said he will try to play football at either VMI or Norfolk State University next season.

THE GAME ENDED one play into the North’s possession in the first overtime. After the Northwest kicked a field goal in the overtime’s opening possession to take a 17-14 lead, North quarterback Connor Reilly (Woodson) on first-and-goal connected with a diving Brandon Johnson (Lake Braddock) in the back right corner of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. Players from the Northern Region piled on one another near the spot of Johnson’s catch, celebrating victory after an emotional game that included trash talking from both teams.

Johnson, a first-team all-state selection at wide receiver, wasn’t pleased with sharing playing time and decided to voice his opinion to the Northern Region coaching staff — his coaches from Lake Braddock.

"Me and [Hayfield’s] Antoine [McCallum] had been splitting time the whole game and I was getting a little bitter about it," Johnson said. "I told them, ‘Look, put me in in overtime, let me run the corner [route] and I’m going to score.’ [Offensive coordinator Chris Weiler] trusted me and I did it."

Johnson caught three passes for 35 yards and two touchdowns from Reilly, a Patriot District rival during the season.

"As soon as the safety turned his back," Connor said of the game’s final play, "it was wide open."

Reilly, who will play football at Temple next season, completed 21 of 43 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns en route to team offensive MVP honors.

The game was a defensive struggle for the most part as the teams combined for seven turnovers. Each team finished with less than 40 yards on the ground, due in part to players having only one week to practice with one another. Defenses were hitting hard and emotions were running high.

"There was a lot of chatter between the two sides," North starting left tackle Matt Cunningham (West Potomac) said. "We were definitely talking to each other. It was getting pretty intense."

The Northern Region took a 7-0 lead when Reilly connected with Edison wide receiver Christian Washington for a 21-yard touchdown with 3:24 to play in the first half. The Northwest Region responded on its ensuing possession with an eight-play, 67-yard drive that used only 2 minutes and 20 seconds. Revell ended the march with a 3-yard touchdown keeper, but the Northwest continued to trail as Woodson linebacker James Johnson blocked the extra point.

The Northern Region extended its lead to 14-6 when Reilly found Johnson in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown with 11:53 to play in the fourth quarter.

The Northwest Region drove deep into North territory minutes later, but was turned away when Barnes tackled Ocasto at the 5 on fourth-and-goal.

A 21-yard punt on the North’s ensuing possession set up the Northwest at the North 32-yard line. After Revell was sacked by the North’s Andrew Embree (Madison) on first down, Revell launched a 39-yard touchdown pass to Jared Johnson (Forest Park) with 6:54 remaining in the fourth. Keith lined up at quarterback and scored on keeper during the ensuing two-point conversion attempt to tie the game at 14.

Yorktown safety C.J. Bartholomew intercepted two passes and earned team defensive MVP honors. He also handled kicking duties, connecting on a pair of extra points. The National District Defensive Player of the Year shared Barnes’ enthusiasm about showing he belonged.

"When I got out on the field I was like, ‘I’m with the best players in the region, I’ve got to prove myself right here,’" Bartholomew said. "Honestly, I just came out with a sense of emotion where I’ve just got to be the best player I can be and prove myself in front of all the best players."

If Barnes didn’t already possess the confidence to play at the next level, his performance for the Northern Region all-stars might have done the job.

"Watch for me at West Virginia," he said. "I’m a walk on, but they’re going to have to look up to me."