Cleveland's Skyler Davis, left, leaps to celebrate his first quarter touchdown catch with Walker Valley’s Zach Eslinger, right, at the Tennessee/Georgia All-Star Showcase at Chattanooga Christian School on Saturday night. Davis was voted as MVP, and will play college football at the junior college ranks in Mississippi (Banner Photo, Patrick MacCoon).
CHATTANOOGA — For a trio of local football standouts, a final moment engraved forever on their high school memories could not have been much sweeter.
Emotions enveloped Cleveland’s Skyler Davis along with Walker Valley’s Alex King and Zach Eslinger, after a 21-14 overtime win for the Fighting Fitzgeralds in the Tennessee/Georgia All-Star Showcase, held at Chattanooga Christian on Saturday night.
For the first time in Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Game history, established in 2004, the two teams were formed after the players were pooled and “drafted” between Meigs County head coach Jason Fitzgerald and Notre Dame head coach Charles Fant. Available for the two teams were 21 players from Georgia (representing six schools) and 42 players from Tennessee (15 schools).
Soon after pouring his heart out on the field in a multitude of ways, Davis went to one knee to pray, then fell onto his back in sheer joy.
The Blue Raider had exerted himself in every facet of the game. In taking home MVP honors, Davis caught seven passes for 50 yards and a 7-yard touchdown cath and also intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter.
The “Energizer bunny” for the home sideline also won an impromptu dance competition as he busted moves to Drake’s ‘Hotline Bling’ during a lighting outage as the CCS field lights automatically shut off at 10 p.m.
“The game was not about me, I went out and fought for the people that will never get a chance to put on their home jersey and play another game under the lights,” Davis said. “It was a brotherhood and fellowship out here. We wanted to put on a show for the fans.”
For a Mustang halfback with numerous school records, King put the nail in the coffin of Team Fantastic, and turned out the lights on the opposition in a pair of ways.
The versatile weapon broke a tackle down the right sideline and outran his defenders to the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown on a screen pass, which turned out to be the game-winning score on the first play of overtime.
After King’s score the lights went out for 25 minutes before an interception from Ringgold’s Michael Layman sealed the deal on a fun and eventful night.
“It is a blessing to play with a bunch of great guys and find a way to help the Fighting Fitzgeralds win this game,” said King, soon after pointing upward to the sky. “I can’t thank God enough for blessing me with the talent I have. It was fun to share this night with Zach, Skyler and Jake Tolleson from Bradley.”
Also making his presence felt in a great way was Eslinger, who had a Randy Moss-like catch early.
The Walker Valley receiver high-pointed the football as he leapt over a defender on an underthrown trick pass from Gordon Lee (Ga.) running back Drew Cobb to haul in a 36-yard reception.
“Coming into the game they talked about a trick play and I was ready to go up and catch it,” Eslinger said. “I am not use to outleaping defenders because we had Cooper (Melton) on the team this year, so it was really fun to do that.”
Two plays later, Cleveland’s Davis stepped in front of a defender on his crossing route for the first score from either side with 1:11 to go in the first quarter. The three Bradley County offensive standouts all celebrated together soon after.
Eslinger finished with three catches for 46 yards and embraced the moment as he walked off the field pumping his fist after the final victory of his high school career.
“We all lost our last football game because none of us were state champions, so it was good to go out on a win to end the season,” Eslinger said. “It is awesome to say I won my last football game because I am just going to study at Cleveland State. I am extremely blessed and want to thank my coaches and family for this moment.”
Davis, Eslinger and King combined for over 100 yards of total offense and two of three scores to be able to hoist the gigantic golden trophy.
King and Davis were two of the Fighting Fitzgeralds team captains.
Tolleson played on the defensive line/special teams for Team Fantastic and assisted on several tackles.
Other highlight performers from the Showcase included Baylor’s Emmanuel Williams (10 catches, 123 yards), Chattanooga Central’s DJ Baxter (6 catches, 34 yards, TD), Meigs County’s Logan Fowler (39-yard TD reception), Baylor’s Bryce Verble (TD pass), Ridgeland’s Grayson Moore (interception), Marion County’s Hunter Zeman (5 tackles), Gordon Lee’s Drew Cobb (4-yard TD run, 36 yard pass) and Heritage’s Corbee Wilson (211 yards passing, 2 TDs).
All coaches were from Tennessee, while Chattanooga Central head coach and former Bradley assistant Cortney Braswell was the game coordinator.
The MVP, Davis, will go on to play collegiate football at East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi.
In five games at receiver for Cleveland before being forced into quarterback duties, he reeled in 23 receptions for 584 yards (25.4 yards per catch) and five touchdowns.
“I hope to extend my time playing football and keep going as far as I can,” Davis said. “Not just for me, but my family. I carry the family name on my back, so I want to share it with everybody.”
King finished his career atop the all-time WVHS running back list with 45 touchdowns and 3,501 total yards. Eslinger finished with 1,152 yards and 11 receiving touchdowns.
Walker Valley running back Alex King, right, tries to evade a tackler during the Tennessee/Georgia All-Star Showcase. King’s 15-yard touchdown catch on the first play of overtime helped lead the Fighting Fitzgeralds to a 21-14 overtime victory at CCS Saturday night (Banner Photo, Patrick MacCoon).
Walker Valley's Zach Eslinger (right) goes up high to haul in a deep pass on a trick play during the Tennessee/Georgia All-Star Showcase (Banner Photo, Patrick MacCoon)