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Few players get to finish out their high school athletic careers with a win.
Playing in the 71st annual North Carolina Coaches Association East-West All-Star Game, Southern Nash’s Lamont Williams did. After playing for a Firebirds team that went undefeated in the 3-A Big East Conference during a three-year stretch, Williams was honored as the lone representative from his school.
Making the most of his opportunity, he blocked his way to a 20-8 victory for the East Wednesday in Greensboro.
“It felt good to win my last high school game,” Williams said in a telephone interview Thursday.
Before heading to Wingate University on Aug. 9 to begin his college career as a defensive tackle, Williams took the field one last time on the offensive end in the East’s triumph. He knew he would be playing offense going into the summer tradition, and was happy to help wherever he was needed.
“It didn’t really matter (where I was playing),” Williams said. “I knew I was going to help the team regardless.”
Last season with the Firebirds, Williams approached his senior year with a similar approach and attitude. The true defensive lineman, who was also a skilled offensive lineman, filled in at fullback late in the season, while also splitting reps at tight end and guard, with the versatility to play wherever was best for the team.
On Wednesday, blocking for a host of offensive talent on the East squad, Williams took the field as the starter at tight end and wore No. 40 at Jamieson Stadium on the campus of Greensboro Grimsley.
His favorite part of the night was blocking for Tarboro High product Keon Caudle, who rushed for 119 yards on eight carries on his way to Offensive MVP honors. Williams, serving primarily as a blocking tight end, said some of his best blocks came in top-scoring plays.
In the first quarter, East quarterback Kyler Davis connected with wide receiver Lamont Murray for an 81-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. That electifying score was a big gain through the air, but the East offense had most of its success in the running game, with the 5-foot-11, 290-pound Williams doing his part opening holes on the exterior of the line.
While the East team kept the West advances at bay, Williams said the night went the way he thought it would.
“It went exactly how I expected,” Williams said. “Their offense didn’t score and I felt like our defense held them. It felt pretty good.”
After giving up a scoop-and-score touchdown to West defensive back Kenneth Washington on a 69-yard fumble recovery with four minutes left in the first quarter, the West did not score again.
Meanwhile, the East just kept going.
With just over a minute until halftime, the East responded with its own defensive score when Kentreaz Coston returned an interception for 20 yards to take a 13-8 lead at the half.
Caudle added one final blow to the West defense with 1:34 left in the game when he scampered in for an 8-yard touchdown. Williams played a part in that score.
“When Keon scored, I had a pretty good block,” Williams explained.
Looking back on his overall performance, Williams later added: “Offensively we could have been better with our blocks, but we did pretty good.”
Through the experience, Williams met several future teammates headed to Wingate, including offensive lineman Isaiah Dunn from Knightdale High and West defender Blake Stephens. Going into the experience, the only player Williams knew was Isaiah Dickens from Wake Forest.
After meeting so many new people, Williams is looking forward to jumpstarting his college career and diving back into defensive work later this summer.
“Since I really don’t know anyone there, I’m looking forward to meeting new people like I did at the East-West game,” Williams said. “And then working out and just playing football again.”
The West offense did not pick up a single first down in the contest.
EAST-WEST BOYS BASKETBALL
Playing in the East-West All-Star boys basketball game earlier in the week on July 15 gave another future college football player from the Firebird ranks a chance to represent the school on the state level.
Darius Edmundson became the first Southern Nash basketball player to represent the school at the annual summer tradition. He was honored to represent his school one last time, and it meant a lot to him to be reunited with his high school coach, Robbie Kennedy, who was the East head coach.
“I’m always going to love him,” Edmundson reflected after the game. “Since I was a freshman, he always showed me different things about the game of basketball, helping my game. It was a really great blessing to be able to play with my coach again.”
Edmundson knew two players prior to the game, with a connection to Smithfield-Selma guard Anthony Council, and playing against Greene Central High star Imajae Dodd in the 252 Classic.
While he was there, Edmundson said he also became friends with Millbrook High’s Phillip Burwell, who will play at Elizabeth City State University next year.
“That’s my guy,” Edmundson said.
After making so many connections, Edmundson said there was only one downside to the experience.
“The bad part of it was that we lost,” Edmundson said after being on the wrong side of a 119-80 final score. “We got beat really, really bad.”
While Edmundson scored just three points in the contest and added three steals, Dodd, who has already enrolled at UNC Wilmington, threw down vicious dunks all night and was a bright spot on the East team.
While the West team scored at will all night and jumped out to a 33-point lead at halftime, Dodd offset some of the East’s woes with four dunks in total, more than anyone else.
Dodd, the 2019 Wilson Times Boys Player of the Year, left his mark before fully turning his attention to his next step in C.B. McGrath’s Seahawk program, scoring a team-high 19 points, while also bringing down nine rebounds.
This summer, Dodd is in an in-between stage from high school to the college ranks. He has been working out with his new UNCW program, and admitted the preparation has already been more strenuous than high school.
“It’s very different from high school,” Dodd said. “I’m just trying to get adjusted to the summer workout part of it.”