Long road to Oil Bowl; Participants come from Arizona, Loisiana, Arkansas

By Zach Duncan

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

They never could have imagined playing in a Texas high school all-star football game a year ago.

But Devin Phillips, William Braswell and Chance Alverson have traveled long distances to appear in Saturday’s 77th annual Oil Bowl at Memorial Stadium.

They’re in Wichita Falls this week despite playing football in the neighboring states of Louisiana, Arizona and Arkansas.

A year after disbanding the Texas-Oklahoma rivalry, the Oil Bowl decided to partner with Sports International football camps. Seven players accepted Oil Bowl invitations after earning special honors at camps held in Texas last summer.

“I’d never thought I’d be in an all-star game in Texas. Definitely not, but it’s a very awesome experience to get out of Arizona and play with different people from different states,” Braswell said. “This is a big thing for me. I’m pretty happy to represent Arizona.”

Braswell played quarterback, tight end and defensive end in Tombstone, which is most famous for Wyatt Earp’s 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral that was made into multiple Hollywood movies. His school competed at Arizona’s smallest 11-man classification.

“It’s very different to see football as a kind of life here,” said Braswell, who is going to play at Division III Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “About 100 people go to our games — it’s not a big thing there, but it’s huge here.”

Braswell made the 10-hour drive to Wichita Falls with his father on Monday, but he didn’t have the longest commute. Phillips traveled 11 hours from his home in Franklinton, Louisiana.

Phillips is looking forward to playing football at Southeastern Louisiana, and the 270-pound lineman will use this week to prepare him for college.

“I want to get better, working on my hands, getting to play against other people I don’t know,” Phillips said. “They invited me so I’m going to come play.”

Alverson hails from Rogers, Arkansas and had a 5 ½-hour trip to town. The 6-1, 240-pound defensive tackle had a difficult high school career.

Competing for a starting spot as a sophomore, Alverson injured his wrist and had surgery. He said “discrepancies” between him and the coaches mostly kept him off the field the next two seasons.

But Alverson was named the top interior defensive lineman at Anthony Spencer’s camp in Denton last summer, the same one Braswell attended.

“I didn’t get to play a whole lot in high school, but I did put a lot of hard work and effort into summer camps going into my senior year,” said Alverson, who is planning on walking on at the University of Arkansas. “Now I’m at least getting to prove my worth one last time, show people that I can really play ball.

“It was good to be recognized for all my hard work even if it wasn’t necessarily seen at home.”

These three guys and the other four camp invitees — two from Oklahoma and two from distant Texas high schools Riesel and Baytown Sterling — are far away from home this week. But they’re also excited to have a chance at playing against some of the region’s best.

OIL BOWL NOTES

The area now has 13 players represented in Saturday’s game with Rider running back Carlos Fleeks joining Raider teammate Davon Allison on West Texas. Nocona tight end Tyler O’Neal was also a late addition and will be the only area representative from East Texas.

Four West Texas players aren’t reporting until Wednesday morning, but they have pretty valid excuses. Both Byron Nelson’s Landry Estes and Jailen Garrett and Justin Northwest’s Dennis Adrole and Kris Key graduated from high school on Tuesday night.

All Oil Bowl practices will be held at Memorial Stadium this week. East Texas will practice Wednesday from 9:45-11 a.m. and 4-5:30 p.m., while West Texas will practice at 8:30-9:45 a.m. and 2:30-4 p.m.