Evan Moore's senior season at Frontier hadn't gone the way he'd hoped, so he seized Friday night's U.S. Army All-Star Bowl at Rabobank Arena as an opportunity to re-write the ending to his high school football career.
Moore led the Black team to a 60-33 victory, throwing for 186 yards and six touchdowns and running for another score. He was named the game's MVP.
"More than anything, with being hurt and everything, I was bummed out about how my senior season had gone," said Moore, who sprained his shoulder as Frontier stumbled to a 4-6 record the year after winning a league title. "This is what I wanted to show to everybody that I could do -- but everybody on our team played great, and this is an award for my whole team."
Moore was particularly lethal when he hooked up with his best friend and Frontier teammate, Jaz Thind. Thind caught six passes for 84 yards and three touchdowns, including a one-handed scoring grab he reached into the stands to pull out.
"That's five years of working together right there," Moore said. "I wouldn't even say we're best friends; we're brothers. We're with each other every day, and we get on each other's nerves sometimes, but we've been perfecting our craft."
Moore drew significant Division I college football interest as a junior, but that waned with his injury. He said he plans to play in junior college in hopes of landing a D-I scholarship in the next year.
The last chapter of his high school career gave Black team coach Eric Mahanke his fourth straight win in the All-Star Bowl; the former Fresno State and Bakersfield Blitz receiver saw his team score the final 26 points in this year's game.
Gold team quarterback Asauni Rufus, from Bakersfield High, finished with 138 yards and two touchdowns passing and 85 yards and three TDs rushing. He scored on a scintillating 27-yard touchdown run on the first possession of the second half to cut the Black team lead to 34-33. But the Black answered with the one-handed Thind TD, then got a diving interception from Garces' Jake Stuart and scored again on a Moore-to-Thind connection. They put the game away on Moore's sixth touchdown, a 19-yard strike to Liberty's Tyson Brewer.
The Black team never trailed, thanks in part to Bakersfield's Derrick Vickers. He collected the opening kickoff at the base of the end zone wall and raced straight up the middle of the field for a 50-yard touchdown return.
"I just saw open field, man," Vickers said. "I saw a touchdown. That's it."
Vickers was one of just three members of the state-championship Drillers on the Black side; there were six BHS players, including standouts Rufus and cornerback Kevin Hayes, on the Gold team. Bakersfield Christian linebacker Grant Bouma, who helped the Eagles to the Division IV state championship game, also had two sacks for the Gold team.
"It was just kind of proving a point," Vickers said. "Those guys have been talking mess ever since the (All-Star Bowl) draft. We just wanted to come out here and show we don't need all those stars.
All they needed was Moore, Thind, Vickers and a cast that twice gave up two-touchdown leads but never wilted.
"Credit to the Gold team; they were on me like crazy all night," Moore said. "But my offensive line, my receivers, our defense, we were all great tonight."
Black 60, Gold 33
B 20 14 6 20—60
G 7 19 7 0—33
B — Derrick Vickers (Bak) 50 kickoff return (Mark Hernandez (Cent) PAT run)
G — Anthony Wood (Stock) 19 pass from Asauni Rufus (Bak) (Joey Cooper (High) kick)
B — Jaz Thind (Fron) 22 pass from Evan Moore (Fron) (kick failed)
B — Moore 1 run (Zac Sullivan (Lib) kick)
G — Rufus 3 run (kick failed)
G — Rufus 5 run (Cooper kick)
B — Josh Jackson (BCHS) 9 pass from Moore (Sullivan kick)
B — Vickers 8 pass from Moore (Sullivan kick)
G — Donald Harris (BCHS) 30 pass from Rufus (kick failed)
G — Rufus 27 run (Cooper kick)
B — Thind 11 pass from Moore (kick failed)
B — Thind 8 pass from Moore (Sullivan kick)
B — Tyson Brewer (Lib) 19 pass from Moore (kick failed)
B — Jack Harding (Cent) 6 run (Sullivan kick)
G: Rufus 12-85. B: Vickers 2-14, Harding 3-12, Moore 4(-13).
G: Rufus 14-31-1-138. B: Moore 17-25-0-186.
G: Harris 4-52, Wood 2-25, Reed 2-16, Gragg 1-14, Ayon 1-14, Dubard 1-10, Littles 1-8, Lopez 1-1, Nourse 1-(-2). B: Thind 6-84, Vickers 5-55, Brewer 2-24, Jackson 1-9, Sandhu 1-8, Stanley 2-6.