Thursday, May 30, 2013 | 2:30 p.m.
This year’s high school football senior all-star game should have a different feel.
The West Charleston Lions Club 42nd Annual All-Star Football Game, which is at 7 p.m. Saturday at Bishop Gorman, will include a heavy helping of players signed with Division I college programs.
Previously, some of those college-bound players were instructed by their future coaches not to play, forcing all-star game organizers into an awkward spot of having to fill roster spots the week of the game.
That’s not the case this year, with the Sunset team featuring eight college players, including the state’s all-time leading passer, Anu Solomon (Arizona), and wide receiver Jamir Tillman (Navy) from Gorman. On the Sunrise team, the running back duo of Liberty’s Niko Kapeli (UNLV) and Canyon Springs’ Donnell Pumphrey (San Diego State) combined for more than 9,000 career yards, while Liberty quarterback Kai Nacua (BYU) and Basic wide receiver Devonte Boyd (UNLV) put up monster numbers last fall in sharing Sunrise MVP honors.
“That is the fun thing about coaching the all-star game. All of the kids we’ve had to game plan against and worry about (during the season), we get to coach,” said Liberty coach Rich Muraco, who is coaching the Sunrise team.
Other college players on the Sunset team include: Tajon Allen (Nebraska-Kearney), Lorenzo Fertitta Jr. (Villanova), Jake Smirk (Dartmouth), Justin Sweet (Colorado State) and Tanner Britton (Nebraska-Kearney), all from Gorman. College players from the Sunrise include: Jay Mattox (UTEP) of Las Vegas High, Jaylen Mitchell (UNLV walk-on) from Liberty and Kennedy Williams (walk-on Utah State) from Valley.
For Kapeli and Boyd, the two locals in UNLV’s 2013 recruiting class, this week’s practices are the start of what they feel could be a turnaround with the Rebels’ program. Kapeli is Liberty’s all-time leading rusher with more than 5,550 yards, and Boyd led the state with 1,081 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns in 2013.
They expect to duplicate the offensive production at the next level.
“(Devonte) always tells me, Jay and the other kids going to UNLV that we are going to make a difference when we get there. And I believe him,” Kapeli said.
The game raises about $40,000 for Lions Club charities such as the Blind Center of Nevada, the Lions Burn Unit at UMC and the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation. Tickets can be purchased for $10 for adults and $5 for students on game day. Children under 6 and military personnel are free.