SAN ANTONIO — No one from the East could keep the Pelican State’s best from taking flight Saturday in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Early touchdowns by Catholic-Baton Rouge’s Derrius Guice and Derrick Dillon of Pine helped the West overcome a frenzied rally in the final quarter and win the national all-star game 39-36 at the Alamodome.
Guice earned Most Valuable Player honors after setting a bowl record with 153 yards receiving. Both of his receptions resulted in touchdowns.
Dillon had three receptions for 57 yards and a touchdown.
Starring at Catholic helped Guice become a five-star recruit and the nation’s fourth-rated running back, but his versatility and selflessness gave the West the edge it needed against the East.
Guice volunteered to play in the slot because the West’s roster was loaded at running back.
“Like I always tell coach, you can put me anywhere and I’m going to perform like you want me to,” Guice, an LSU commitment said.
The 5-foot-11, 219-pound senior exceeded expectations, especially on his first reception.
Guice leapt and reached behind him in a single motion, barely breaking stride as he corralled Travis Waller’s forceful pass and sprinted to the end zone untouched for a 92-yard touchdown reception.
The touchdown with 5:09 remaining in the first quarter gave the West a 6-3 lead it would never relinquish.
The second touchdown landed in Guice’s lap after he got behind the defense for a 61-yard reception.
Quarterback Ricky Town stepped up in the pocket to avoid a heavy rush and lobbed a pass that Guice caught at his hip and again ran in untouched for a 33-3 lead with 1:38 left in the first half.
“It really worked out good for me,” Guice said. “The two plays I scored on was the same play. We just worked on that play a lot at practice and every time I ran it, I was wide open and it just happened the same in the game.
“Everyone just kept overrunning me and I was open for the flies. Everybody was doing verticals (routes). So, of course the safety is going to go with somebody else, the corner is going to go with the outside and I’m just in the middle so there wasn’t anybody with me.”
Dillon sprinted past the defense for a 25-yard touchdown reception from Brady White following Guice’s first score. Dillon, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound receiver, also had a 30-yard reception during the drive.
Dillon, a Florida commitment, was limited to one reception for 2 yards in the second half and Guice did not have any catches.
The decision not to target the Louisiana standouts proved costly for the West in the second half.
The East scored the final 27 points, cutting what seemed an insurmountable West lead into a 39-36 deficit with 1:40 remaining.
The East regained possession with 36 seconds remaining at its own 38-yard line, but lost possession on downs after gaining just a single yard over 25 seconds.
Even with the unexpected late drama, Guice said the game and the entire week was a joy.
“It was very fun,” Guice said. “Playing with people that I met for one week, well, half of them I already knew because we’re all going to LSU.
“But bonding with new people, having to trust new people, it just felt like a new family all over again. Everybody is fun. We all bonded and had fun with each other.
“It was just an amazing experience for me and I just thank God for it.”