PITTSBURG — It wasn't pretty at first, but West running back Josh Smith's punishing running style was effective. He wore down the East defense so much that the East was helpless to stop the former Hutchinson running back when it mattered most in the West's 45-29 victory Saturday night.
"That was the game plan," Smith said. "We just wanted to run it down on them and get them tired. The coaches and everybody just did a great job of following through with the game plan, and my line did a good job of blocking for everybody."
The game was competitive deep into the fourth quarter. The East held a 29-28 lead with 4:54 remaining. But Smith and the West squad just seemed to have a little bit more in the tank than their competitors.
West coach Randall Zimmerman of Junction City fed the ball to Smith, whose MVP performance included 18 carries for 108 yards and three touchdowns. The result was a 17-yard touchdown run with 3:55 left in the game to give the West a 36-29 lead after a successful two-point conversion.
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The West defense immediately followed up with a huge safety to suck all of the wind out of the East.
"Our offense stepped up big," West cornerback Colt Rogers of Smith Center said. "When they had to put drives together they did. We have a really aggressive defense. We just run around and fly to the ball. It can be really good and it can really hurt us. It hurt us a couple of times, but in the end it paid off."
Led by its defense, the East forged a comeback in the second half to keep the game close.
East linebacker Brannon Green of Labette County blocked a 52-yard field goal attempt by West kicker Jake Craig and grabbed the ball in the air to set up the East offense early in the fourth quarter.
East quarterback Sam Johnson had receiver Chris Fields with one-on-one coverage against Rogers. The pass was underthrown and it looked like Rogers had the interception at about the West 5-yard line, but it went through his hands. Fields caught the tipped pass and ran in for a 44-yard touchdown reception.
East linebacker Neil Shortell of Bishop Miege then forced a fumble that was recovered by Brannon Green. The turnover again led to an East touchdown run by Johnson. East coach Bill Arnold decided to be a little gutsy though. He went for the two-point conversion after the touchdown and Johnson hit Adam Lebanc to go up by two to go up 29-28 less than six minutes left.
Rogers didn't doubt his offense would recover though.
"When they are clicking they are almost unstoppable," Rogers said. "They drove the field many times and had it going for us good."
East07715 — 29 West210717 — 45
W — Smith 2 run (Craig kick)
W — Lucas 30 pass from Piper (Craig kick)
W —Seibel 18 run (Craig kick)
E — Tice 3 run (Gourley kick)
E — Mueller 1 pass from Johnson (Gourley Kick)
W — Smith 3 run (Craig kick)
E — Fields 28 pass from Johnson (Gourley kick)
E — Johnson 18 run (LeBlanc pass from Johnson
W — Smith 17 run
W — safety
W — Seibel 3 run
Rushing — West, Smith 18-108-3, Seibel 11-117-2, Robinson 9-33. East, Albright-8-41, Johnson 4-27, Tice 4-12
Passing — West, Piper 10-13-1-180, Seibel 3-4-45. East Johnson 11-21-1-2-94, Bollig 0-1
Receiving — West, Sexton 6-81, LeMaster 3-80, Allen 2-38-1. East, Fields 4-47-1, McLerran 3-32, Buhler 1-21, Mueler 1-1-1.