In other all-star games, teams would have rolled over.
Not at the Shrine Bowl. After going down three scores by halftime, the West squad came out with a fire in the second half but couldn’t complete the comeback, falling to the East 21-14.
The East’s offense was relentless in the first half. They scored touchdowns on all three possessions, capped with a seeming dagger with 14 seconds to go as East MVP quarterback Jack Blumer, of Marysville, ran it in from 1 yard out. The drive had been kept alive on a 35-yard fake punt.
In the first half, the West had 10 fewer first downs and 30 yards on 17 plays. They didn’t even have the ball for seven minutes.
West coach Scott Vang, of Goddard, said his guys just got frustrated.
“I told them not to panic, just to show up and play,” Vang said.
West defensive end Grant Fairchild, of Andale, said Vang came into the locker room and rejuvenated the group. He told them if they were going to lose, it was going to be a slow death. And it was.
“I think we kind of underestimated them a little bit coming in; we were all cocky, and you have to back up your talk,” Fairchild said. “We knew that if we brought a little of character back, we weren’t done yet.”
In the second half, the West had almost 120 more yards of offense and 14 more points — all while the defense played its part.
The West got on the board early in the third quarter after Northwest defensive end Garrett Bridwell forced the game’s only turnover, a fumble. On the ensuing drive, Scott City’s Jarrett Jurgens took in a 2-yard run.
After a couple of defensive stops, West quarterback Braden Howell, of Carroll, found his target. Howell hit Goodland’s Levi Archer for a 37-yard gain. It was the longest play of the game.
Two plays later, Derby running back Brody Kooser found a cutback lane and ran it in from 8 yards out from the wildcat package.
“We had to change some things up to find our rhythm,” Howell said. “We had to get our run game going to open up our pass, and that gave us some momentum.”
Steve Martin, defensive coordinator and Northwest coach, figured out the East offense and stifled it. When the East went to a heavy ground attack, the West held firm, and when they needed a play in the secondary, Neal Bever stepped up.
On a 4th-and-3 from the 10-yard line, East’s Chase Curtis, of Pittsburg, rolled to his right and fired for Blue Valley North’s Nijel Roberts in the corner of the end zone. Bever broke in on the pass and deflected it down. The West had a shot with about two minutes to go.
Howell and the West offense couldn’t find their rhythm.
With players from state finalists like Andale, Goddard and Carroll, Vang said losing — even in an exhibition game — was tough for his players.
“They were frustrated because they had a great week of camp,” Vang said. “They’re all winners, so they want to go out and play well. But we had to take care of our business, and we just ran out of time there at the end.”