BELOIT — The Eight-Man Division II All-Star game didn’t end how a group of area players would have preferred Saturday afternoon in Beloit.
But a dramatic 28-20 overtime win by the East squad did little to take away from the West team’s experience.
“They’re great guys. All of them are all-stars,” Wallace County’s Grady Hammer said. “I had the funnest week of my life playing football.”
“It was a great experience,” Otis-Bison’s Kade Urban added. “We got here Tuesday, and I knew that we bonded right away.”
After regulation ended in a 20-20 tie, the East squad scored on two plays after getting the ball to start overtime at Trojan Field. East quarterback Will Bruna rushed in the score before completing a two-point conversion.
The game ended a few plays later when Dighton’s Tyler Lingg had a shotgun snap roll to his feet for the West. An East defender wrestled the ball away from him to end the game.
“It was a great game,” Hammer said. “Those boys from the east are pretty dang good. We were expecting a great game, and we got one.”
The game was far from what many would expect from an all-star game. Big plays were rare, but both defenses appeared locked in, forcing a total of 11 turnovers.
The scoring opened with a defensive score when Dighton’s Dylan Foos intercepted a pass on the East’s first drive and returned it roughly 30 yards for a score. Wallace County’s Levi Johnson ran over a defender on the conversion to give the West an 8-0 lead.
Bruna marched the East offense down the field for a score late in the quarter before hitting St. John’s/Tipton’s Davis Dubbert to tie the contest late in the first quarter.
The only other score of the first half came midway through the second quarter when West quarterback Colton Schmidt, of Ingalls, hit Foos for a 23-yard strike.
The half ended when Stockton’s Joel Green intercepted a pass with 16 seconds left, erasing the East’s chance to tie for the time being.
The West was intercepted on the next play and nearly allowed a return for a score before the East defender was pushed out just shy of the pylon.
Both defenses pitched shutouts in the third quarter before a Bruna keeper tied it with 9:20 to play.
The East had multiple opportunities to take the lead later in the quarter, but the West defense came up with a couple stops inside its own 10.
“Our defense played great. You can’t ask for a whole lot more out of your defense,” West defensive coordinator and Otis-Bison head coach Travis Starr said. “They had their backs up against the wall a lot today, and they kept taking punches.”
The West looked to score the decisive touchdown when Dighton teammates Lingg and Foos connected on an eight-yard slant that put the West up 20-14.
The East offense took advantage of soft coverage to move the ball downfield. Dubbert came up with a clutch reception on fourth down to extend the drive inside the West red zone. Bruna finished another East drive with a rushing score before Pretty Prairie’s Denton Webster intercepting the conversion, setting up overtime
The extra period didn’t go as the West would’ve hoped, but there was little to be disappointed about.
“We lost the game, but we played a hell of a game,” Urban said.
“It’s an awesome experience. The end result, in the scheme of things, doesn’t really matter,” Starr added.
“The kids played well. Our side played well; their side played well. It just a fun experience for everyone.”