ACR’s Elmonus, Pisgah’s Walker Play in Shrine Bowl

By Pete Zamplas- A.C. Reynolds blocker C.J. Elmonus and Pisgah tight end Kam Walker had last high school hurrahs Saturday playing for North Carolina in a 10-10 tie with South Carolina, in the football Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.

Tight end Kam Walker (84) of Pisgah is about to smack Michael McDowell (36) of Boiling Springs with a block. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

The prestigious Shrine Bowl began in 1937, and is the oldest high school all-star game in the country. It has been at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. since the mid-Nineties.

Elmonus at 6-foot-7 was the tallest N.C. player. Walker, who is 6-5, is also among tallest. He weighs 240 pounds, and Elmonus 270. They both are on their way to ACC schools — TE/defensive end Walker to N.C. State, and offensive tackle Elmonus to Wake Forest.

Elmonus played both tackle spots for ACR, and said he is slated for right tackle at Wake. He said it was fun for Reynolds to “dominate” most foes for his three years of starting on varsity, then drive deep into playoffs. He was a catalyst of the ongoing Rocket juggernaut. In ’18 Reynolds went 12-2, and Pisgah was 10-2. Both were unbeaten in their conferences.

Elmonus and Walker were in and out of the N.C. offense. They were both on the field to block for a successful field goal.

Playing with and against the Carolinas’ other stars is a step toward testing the collegiate level of athleticism, strength and skill. Elmonus said he enjoyed teaming up with former rivals. An arch-rival is quarterback Sam Howell (6-2, 220) of Sun Valley. He is headed to Florida State, and ACC battles against colleges of Elmonus and Walker.

Elmonus chuckled when telling The Tribune that in the week of preparation for the Shrine Bowl, he felt some iciness from Howell. Elmonus figures he represents the “bad memory” of ACR knocking out Howell’s Sun Valley in 3AA playoffs in 2017 and again this year. On Saturday, Howell’s shining moment was zipping up the middle for 22 yards.

C.J. Elmonus (65) with his driving block demolishes 6-5 DL Nate Temple of Abbeville, S.C.’s four-time reigning 2A state champ. Photo by Pete Zamplas.



The third WNC player on the N.C. squad was Isaiah Evans, Cherokee’s star runner, who did not get into the game. His head coach, Kent Briggs, was among six N.C. assistants.

Last year, the N.C. head coach was Murphy’s David Gentry. The Edneyville native was also busy last Saturday as he won his eighth state title with Murphy and second in three years. The Bulldogs (13-1) blasted Pamlico Co. (13-2) by 60-27, for the 1A crown. They are WNC’s sole state football champs of ’18.

Most important about the Shrine Bowl is helping raise money to help area children in the Shriners’ Hospital care, several players said. “The game is about the children — not us,” Kam Walker said. More than $1.5 million was raised from the latest game, and over $75 million in its 82-year history, Shrine officials noted.

Part of the experience is visiting child patients, in the hospital in Greenville, S.C. Their care includes for burns, spinal cord injuries, and various acute orthopedic conditions.

“We know better how they feel,” said Zacch Pickens (6-5, 286), S.C.’s newly-crowned Mr. Football and the S.C. squad’s defensive MVP. The S.C. Gamecock (USC)-bound defensive end is from T.L. Hannah in Anderson. He hopes to follow the USC then NFL star path of Jadeveon Clowney, the last (in 2010) defensive player to be S.C.’s Mr. Football.

Defenses ruled the day, with sure tackling and swarming to the ball carrier. S.C. made five sacks.
Both teams scored a long touchdown on the first play of a drive. S.C.’s longest multi-play drive went for merely 41 yards on seven plays, and ended on downs just pass midfield. N.C. did better with three multi-play drives over 56 yards and with 10 or more plays. But one stalled at the S.C. 11. A field goal was made, another barely missed.

N.C. out-rushed the Sandlappers 170 to 108 yards. Both sides had fewer than 150 passing yards. The snowy blizzard aftermath chopped preparation in half, to three practices per team. Also, N.C. went without ten players who instead played for state titles on Saturday.

WNC Shrine Bowlers (L-R) are Kam Walker of Pisgah, Cherokee’s Isaiah Evans of Cherokee, and C.J. Elmonus of Reynolds. Photo by Pete Zamplas.


The all-star game ended in a tie for the fifth time, and first in 70 years. There is no overtime, by Shrine Bowl rules. Elmonus laughed about the deadlock feeling odd, amidst our nation’s competitive spirit. But it beats the feeling of falling in playoffs.

Six-foot-six Davis Beville of Greenville High was the S.C. offensive player of the game. Beville passed for a game-best 114 yards. He will be a Pitt Panther. On his first play Beville hurled a 45-yard pass for the first touchdown, to UT Vols recruit Quendarius Jefferson in the end zone. S.C. led 7-0 after a quarter.

N.C. answered as its offensive MVP, Zonovan Knight of Southern Nash, cut left then ahead to race 61 yards up the middle for a score. Knight (6-0, 189) was the workhorse, with 24 carries for 151 yards (6.3 ypc.). He will be Kam Walker’s Wolfpack teammate.

S.C. Mr. Football Zacch Pickens (90 in red) runs the ball. The 286-pound future USC Gamecock is getting bull wrestled down by Ja’Quan McMillian (175 lb.), an ECU commit who is over 100 pounds lighter. Closing in is J.R. Walker (28), the N.C. defensive MVP. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

A 19-yard field goal by Matthew Chmil put N.C. up 10-7, 45 seconds before halftime. The third quarter was scoreless. Chmil shanked his first three punts. Later S.C. finally capitalized, after Shamar McCollum’s punt block set up S.C. at the N.C. 38. Michael Hayes soon tied it with a sharp-angled 25-yard field goal, with two minutes to go. Then each side fizzled in one last drive.

The longest N.C. pass play was 52 yards, from Temple-bound Kennique Bonner-Steward to Khafre Brown. Brown (6-1, 185) of “West Meck” and Emery Simmons (6-2, 190) of South View will give UNC Tar Heels two more big targets. Wake-bound Nolan Groulx of Hough had the most (seven) catches of all. Groulx is to play in the All-American Bowl Jan. 5.

Defensive MVPs were Virginia Tech-bound DB J.R. Walker (6-1, 200) of Clayton for N.C., and Pickens for S.C. Five-star recruit Pickens was a two-way star Saturday. He made seven tackles. Pickens was lead runner for two late drives, averaging 5.3 per carry off of “wildcat” quick snaps.

Wednesday, Dec. 19 launched the official D1 college early signing period.

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