By RYAN HERMAN
Garrett Young’s biggest regret from last year’s state championship game was not connecting with receiver Jesse Earnhardt for a touchdown.
The gunslinger plans on making amends today.
The two East Lincoln High June graduates will take the field together one final time tonight when they suit up for the 65th annual N.C. Coaches Association East-West All-Star football game.
Young, last year’s record-setting quarterback, and Earnhardt, one of Young’s favorite targets, will both start tonight’s game when it kicks off at 8 at A.J. Simeon Stadium in High Point.
Young, who broke several county passing marks and piloted the Mustangs to a perfect 16-0 season and their first state title in history last season, said he only wants to get Earnhardt a TD in their final prep game.
“I just want to throw a touchdown to Jesse. I don’t think he got one in the state championship game so I’m going to have to get him one in this all-star game,” Young told the Lincoln Times-News by phone.
“It feels good that we get to suit up (together) again and I get to throw him some more passes. It’s a good privilege that we have, but we both worked for it. We just want to go and honor our school and show everybody what we can do.”
The duo seemed to do it all for East Lincoln last season.
Young set county passing marks with unofficial totals of 3,751 yards and 45 TDs last season. He also set the single-game passing yards mark with 351 yards twice last year, against Newton-Conover and Bandys.
His two TDs and 196 yards through the air in last December’s 24-20 win over Tarboro for the state 2A title gave him unofficial career totals of 84 TDs and 6,773 passing yards –– both county records.
Earnhardt was on the receiving end of 1,352 yards –– a team high –– and 13 TDs. Together, along with the rest of their 2012 teammates, Earnhardt and Young helped set the standard for East Lincoln football.
“It started back in the summer. Everyone showed a good commitment to our football team,” Earnhardt said. “I know I worked hard in the mornings and in the weight room and on the field at night. We just put a lot of time into it and it paid off.”
The two arrived in Greensboro last Thursday, and have bonded with their new teammates and developed lasting relationships.
Earnhardt and Young are two of the 32 participants named to the West team, and both will start, they said.
The entire experience leading up to tonight’s game –– including practicing twice a day –– has been a memorable one.
“They’ve always got us doing something. … We’ve got some good coaches. It’s been fun,” Earnhardt said. “(It’s about the) experience. (I) just (want to) have fun down here and hopefully we’ll win.
“We’ve met a lot of good guys. It’s been really fun.”
Earnhardt, who will run track at Appalachian State University next spring, is hoping to catch not one, but many, TD passes from his longtime quarterback (the two have played together since they were 8, Young said).
Earnhardt, who said he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, said it was his life-long dream to play football in college. He had offers to play from schools such as Wingate, and had a preferred walk-on spot to Western Carolina, he said, but they weren’t what he was after.
Earnhardt chose instead to run track for the Mountaineers, and hopes to show college football programs and coaches that he felt overlooked him what they are missing out on.
He also wants to use tonight’s game as a way to end his high school athletics career on a high note, considering an injury forced him to cut short his events at the NCHSAA state 2A track and field championships in May.
“All those college coaches that had doubts in me –– I know there’s going to be a lot of them out there –– I want to show them what they missed out on. This gives me a good opportunity to do that,” Earnhardt said.
“Hopefully I’ll have a good game, help my team out and we’ll win.”
Young, East Lincoln’s starter since he was a sophomore, will also be a college athlete. He will play football at Division II Mars Hill College this fall.
“This has given me the experience to play against supreme athletes before I start college,” Young said. “It’s all about experience. All these kids are good.”
Earnhardt and Young are just the fourth from East Lincoln to be named to the East-West football game and the first to play in the same year, according to the media guide given out every year. They join Jason Perry, who played in 2009, and Marcus McDowell, who played in 2011.
The fact the only four East Lincoln graduates to play football have all done so in the last five all-star games shows what kind of program the Mustangs are building.
To Earnhardt and Young, that’s what’s most important.
“The kids on (the state championship) team got a great experience. … Even the kids that didn’t get pulled up (to varsity) saw how it’s supposed to be done,” said Young. “They saw how a team is supposed to come together, work as a unit and be on the same page. That’s going to help East Lincoln a lot.”