The U.S. Army Arena Bowl is supposed to be fun, fast and filled with highlights, and few have lived up to that mission as much as Arena Bowl XII on Friday night in Rabobank Arena.
With Taft High quarterback Vaughn Richardson playing the proverbial role of kid in candy store, the Black team raced past the Gold team 68-48 in the highest scoring version yet of Kern County's annual high school football indoor senior all-star game.
Richardson threw eight -- yes, eight -- touchdown passes hitting six different receivers for scores, ran for another touchdown and finished 20-of-33 passing for 282 yards. He was named the game's Most Valuable Player.
"It was really fun," Richardson said. "All of those guys can make plays. I just had to get them the ball."
There were plenty of big plays on both sides, with Ridgeview's Kamari Cotton-Moya, an Iowa State signee, starting the Gold scoring with a 50-yard kickoff return and Independence's Preston Hodges answered with a 50-yard touchdown return of his own in the second quarter for the Black team.
"This was more fun than I ever imagined," said Cotton-Moya, who also caught six passes for 114 yards and was the Offensive Player of the Game. "This kind of game was made for me, Preston, Justin Cash (of Frontier), guys like that.
"We knew it would be a battle."
The difference was the Black team's efficiency. They scored on their first nine drives of the game and were 6-for-8 on third down. The first points of the game, fittingly, came on a 13-yard touchdown on third-and-10 from Richardson to Hodges. Richardson then scored on a 1-yard keeper on third down to make it 13-0.
Richardson then hit Cash, who had four catches for 91 yards, for a 29-yard TD just before halftime that made the score 42-14 at the break. By that point, MVP Richardson from small-town Taft had already accounted for five touchdowns.
"It was just really special being out here with these talented guys and to be named MVP," Richardson said.
The Gold team never drew closer than 20 points in the second half, but it sure put on a show keeping pace. Cotton-Moya scored on two long passes from Garces' Cruise Adams, who finished 16-of-25 passing for 197 yards and four touchdowns.
Cotton-Moya said he almost skipped the game like other major-college signees have done in years' past, but he decided to give his hometown and his high school career one last memory before heading off to Iowa State.
"I always thought that the Arena Bowl was where dummies played to get hurt (before college)," Cotton-Moya said. "But it was just us having fun. It was fun."
It was also the third straight victory in the game for Black team coach Eric Mahanke and his staff from the Terrio Edge facility, which included the Carr brothers — New York Giants quarterback David, Fresno State QB Derek and Bakersfield High assistant Darren.
"The coaches from the Edge really made it easy on me," Richardson said. "We had a good gameplan."