West tackles East in Shrine Bowl
Published on -7/30/2012, 10:14 AM
By CONOR NICHOLL
EMPORIA -- On July 21, Hutchinson High School running back Ja'Mon Cotton, a Pittsburg State University signee, was sitting in Pittsburg with his roommates.
He wasn't selected to the 39th annual Kansas Shrine Bowl and planned on watching the game on TV. However, when Kapaun/Mount-Carmel's Luke Bean dropped out from the West squad, Cotton received a call asking to join the team for practice this week in Salina.
At first, he thought someone was playing a joke, but Cotton knew Hutchinson coach Randy Dreiling is always serious.
"When Coach Dreiling called, and then my mom called and said, 'Coach Dreiling called her,' I knew it was real, because Coach Dreiling doesn't play," Cotton said.
Cotton reported to camp the next day and eventually earned West team Most Valuable Player honors in a 14-7 victory against the East on Saturday night at Emporia State University's Welch Stadium.
"It would have been an easy decision for anybody and I am glad that I got a chance to come," Cotton said.
Cotton finished with a game-high 60 rushing yards on 12 carries and tacked on the game's last score. Cotton's solid performance contrasted a game marked by a plethora of dropped passes, fumbles, penalties and missed opportunities from both sides. Still, the West extended its record winning streak to seven games.
"It was very important," West quarterback Matt Reed said. "All through the week, we kept seeing the Shriners from the West side. They were like, 'Keep the streak alive, keep the streak alive.' They only said two things, 'Thank you, and keep the streak alive.' "
Collectively, the squads had four fumbles, one interception and went 1 of 4 in red zone conversions. The East finished the first half when the West's Jordan Hart (McPherson) blocked East kicker Nick Walsh's field goal attempt from the 31-yard line. The West team had 10 penalties for 70 yards, while the East collected six penalties for 44 yards.
"It's important, with the streak and everything, you've got to do it," West tight end Jared Herl, an Ellis product, said. "You know, it seemed like we would get things together, we would gain yards and stuff, we just couldn't punch it in.
"We would have something go wrong," Herl added. "Tons of miscues, tons of random miscues. You kind of don't want to expect it in an all-star game, but you kind of have to know it's going to happen. Unfortunately, we just had a lot of that."
Still, the West's defense held the East to minus-1 rushing yards on 25 attempts and held a 9-0 advantage in pass breakups.
"All week in practice, we couldn't even score on them," Cotton said. "It's expected for them to come out and play like this like they did in practice."
Thunder Ridge's Joel Struckhoff recorded six tackles, second-highest in the game, and broke up two passes. La Crosse's Tayler Stull had a key pass breakup on a pass intended for Centralia's Michael Glatczak.
Last fall, Centralia defeated La Crosse in the Class 2-1A state championship game. Saturday, on a 4th-and-1 from the West 39-yard line in the first quarter, the East threw a pass down the right side to Glatczak. Stull hit Glatczak as hard as possible as soon as the receiver touched the ball and knocked it loose.
"That was just a little payback from the state game," Stull said. "There is no sugar-coating that."
Plainville's Andrew Casey and Hays High School's Zach Binder each recorded a sack. Smith Center's Truitt Kuhlmann had two tackles.
"They have great leadership over there, starting with the defensive line," West coach Brian Hill said. "They really came off the ball and for only being six of them that had to play the whole game."
The West received a big play on its first drive. Reed had an errant pitch and West fumbled the ball. The East had several players around the play, but the West recovered.
"What a great play by (Salina South lineman) Darius Peterson," Hill said. "It was just great hustle to get out there. He was the only green shirt around five white shirts, and he was the only one who came away with it."
On the next play, the West took an 8-0 lead with 7:27 left in the first quarter on a 54-yard pass from Reed to Abilene's Collin Sexton. Struckhoff was the West's kicker, who didn't attempt field goals or extra points in his career. So, the West tacked on a two-point conversion on a pass from Reed to Hart.
The East pulled to 8-7 with 7:45 remaining in the first half on a 55-yard TD pass from Blue Valley Northwest quarterback Garrett Fugate to Glatczak. Glatczak caught the ball on a short slant, ran to the middle, found a seam and beat the secondary to the end zone.
Fugate finished with East MVP honors when he completed 16-of-32 passes for 204 yards with a score.
Then, both teams had chances. Herl dropped a wide-open pass across the middle in the red zone that likely would have led to a second quarter touchdown.
"I just pulled my arms in a little too soon, I think is what happened," Herl said.
Controversy ensued shortly before the first half ended. The East drove inside the red zone and tried to spike the ball to stop the clock just before the halftime buzzer sounded. Fugate spiked the ball at the same time the buzzer went off. At first, officials had no ruling, and the West team started to walk off the field.
Then, the officials announced the ball was spiked before the clock went off. Hart blocked Walsh's field goal and the West led 8-7 at halftime. The West took a 14-7 lead with 10:01 left on a nine-yard score from Cotton.
"He is great," Reed said. "I have known Cotton since I was like nine. He just came in and was just ready to play. He wasn't worried about being the last person there. He just came in, learned fast and does what he does best."
On the next possession, the East drove to the West 24, but a trick play backfired. The East had one more scoring chance in the final minutes, but dropped a pass inside the 10-yard line.
"When you line up and kick the ball off, you are just looking for a victory," Hill said. "Five, ten years from now, they are not going to worry about the score. (It's) just going to matter whether you won or lost."