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All-star football game draws top stars in last hurrah before college

High school all-star games don’t always feature the best talent available.

That won’t be the case tonight, however.

Of the 15 area players who signed a letter of intent with a Football Bowl Subdivision school, eight are expected to suit up for the 42nd annual West Charleston Lions Club Charity All-Star Football Game.

The game, which is sponsored by the Ultimate Fighting Championship and is hoping to raise $50,000 for several local charities, kicks off at 7 p.m. at Bishop Gorman.

“In the past, a lot of kids opted not to play. So I’m proud of the kids on both teams who decided to play in it,” said Bishop Gorman’s Tony Sanchez, who will coach the Sunset Region squad.

“There’s a handful of kids that are just really special athletes in the skill positions. There’s definitely some kids with some good football ahead of them in this group.”

The roster for the Sunrise Region, which won last year’s game 28-14, includes five players headed to FBS schools, led by running back Niko Kapeli (UNLV) and quarterback Kai Nacua (Brigham Young) of Liberty.

Sunrise coach Rich Muraco of Liberty said Kapeli and Nacua also recruited Basic wide receiver Devonte Boyd (UNLV) and Canyon Springs running back Donnel Pumphrey (San Diego State) as late additions to the game.

Jay Mattox of Las Vegas (Texas-El Paso) will handle the kicking duties for the Sunrise.

“I mostly wanted to play for Muraco one more time … and spend time with kids from other schools,” Kapeli said. “I knew I was going to participate in this event. So I gave (UNLV) a heads up. They said, ‘Just watch out.’ ”

The Sunset seniors feature three Gorman standouts: defensive back Justin Sweet (Colorado State), wide receiver Jamir Tillman (Navy) and quarterback Jarrett Solomon (Arizona). Solomon was the Review-Journal’s state player of the year.

Sanchez said Faith Lutheran wide receiver Anthony Pryatel-Farmer (Santa Rosa Junior College), Cheyenne running back Myloe Lewis and Shadow Ridge quarterback Bakari Smith have stood out during practice this week.

“This is my last time being here as a high school player. So it’s pretty exciting,” said Smith, who is headed to College of the Redwoods (Calif.). “I’m hoping to prove myself to everyone here and prepare myself for college.”

The game also offers unsigned seniors a final chance to impress recruiters. Muraco said this week he’s heard from three junior colleges, and a number of recruiters are expected to attend.

“This is my third year doing this game, and this is by far the most talented team we’ve had,” Muraco said. “I know their side is pretty loaded, too. It should make for a good game.”

Contact reporter David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.

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