Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 | 9:40 p.m.
Liberty High quarterback Tyler Newman looked at the green grass that was in front of him, and saw it as an opportunity to end his high school football career on a high note. It didn't matter that it was exhibition. Winning is winning.
Playing alongside some of the Sunrise Region's best seniors, Newman went to work to accomplish that goal. He completed his final four passes, and found Coronado High's Jackson Cofer for a 2-yard touchdown pass, capping an 80-yard march that gave the Sunrise All-Stars a 27-23 victory over the Sunset All-Stars in the West Charleston Lions Club Charity All-Star Football Game at Bishop Gorman.
The win was the Sunrise Region's third consecutive all-star game victory, and Newman was crowned the game's most valuable player.
"It was everyone's last high school football game ever, and for some, their last (organized) football game ever," said Newman, who adds the MVP trophy next to his Gatorade Nevada Player of the Year award. "It was a great way to end it. Game-winning drive. You couldn't ask for anything better than that."
Newman completed 17 of 33 passes for 280 yards with three touchdowns. He hit eight different receivers, and flowed seamlessly into Brian Castro's pass-heavy spread offense.
Las Vegas High's Aaron Zanin-Banks led all receivers, pulling down five passes for 120 yards en route to being named the offensive player of the game.
"Majority of the teams that came together play the spread, so it wasn't that big of a shift," said Zanin-Banks, whose 46-yard catch on third down gave Sunrise the boost it needed on the game-winning drive.
Castro, who serves as the head coach at Green Valley, said it wasn't overly difficult to get the players from the region all on the same page despite the short time together.
The reasons were twofold: 1) the Gators' offensive system can be simplified thanks to the use of wrist bands, and 2) the players' experience.
Castro's biggest takeaway from coaching the team, however, was getting to know the players from the region as more than just the guys he had to prepare against.
"They're great kids being on top of being great football players," he said. "I enjoyed getting to know them than more than just Xs and Os. I enjoyed learning who they were."
Palo Verde High quarterback Parker Rost played well in Sunset's losing effort. He went 13 of 28 for 116 yards with two touchdowns. His teammate from Palo Verde, Calvin Beaulieu, was named the defensive player of the game.
After Newman led the Sunrise All-Stars down the field for the go-ahead score with 35 seconds left, the team recovered an onside kick, which many thought had signaled the end of the game.
The game, however, banned onside kicks, giving Sunset one last chance to go down the field after a rekick.
"It wasn't too serious," Newman said of the game. "But at the end of the game, when everyone is out there, you're playing to win it."