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The Madison Record
1. James Clemens senior Darren Verhage stands inside the L.A. Chargers/Rams Stadium in Los Angeles as part of the Offense-Defense West Coast All-American Bowl. The talented lineman was invited to attend the game where he played for the Yellow Team. Photo Contributed

Darren Verhage Plays Offense And Defense In West Coast All-American Bowl

LOS ANGELES, CAL.- Darren Verhage will soon sign a college scholarship to play football for Cumberland University, a NAIA school in Lebanon, Tenn. Though a dream fulfilled, the signing may not be the highlight of his post-season activities as the 18-year old recently played on the national stage as part of the Offense/Defense West Coast All-American Bowl in Los Angeles.

The West Coast contest is part of an organization which has hosted football camps since 1969 and hosting national type bowl games since 2005. The game was played Dec. 29 in SoFi Stadium home of both the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers.

“It was a fun experience and really fun to meet new players all of whom want to win,” said Verhage.

The 6-foot-2, 260-pound Verhage played both defensive tackle and offensive center for the Yellow Team. His squad opened an eight-nothing lead and led 8-7 at halftime, but fell to the Blue Team 22-8. “It was the first time snapping the ball since last summer,” said Verhage who played defensive line for James Clemens in the 2021 season. “There were no snags on snaps and I did not allow a sack. On defense I had a few tackles, but I felt I did better on offense than defense. I used my strength and stamina to withstand the efforts of playing both ways as I never got a break during the game.”

Verhage and his father made the trip to Los Aneles arriving in the City of Angeles Dec. 25 where they met up with family friends and celebrated Christmas together. They stayed in the Marriott Hotel about a 30-minute drive to the stadium. The bowl game hosted four days of practice for the All-American players prior to the game. Working together with expert coaches, Verhage learned how to set up plays and information in all areas of the game he hopes will help him once he begins play for the Phoenix at Cumberland.

As for the highly anticipated trip to sunny California- it was anything but.

“We had flooding rains and it was very cold,” said Verhage. “The indoor stadium had a few leaks in the roof and it looked like a slight fall of rain inside the stadium. It was not the kind of weather I was expecting.”

Verhage took a tour of the stadium which included visiting the Chargers’ locker room. He said, “One thing I Iearned about SoFi Stadium is the fact the playing field is really about 100-feet underground. All-in-all, I had a good, fun time.”

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