By SCOTT COTTOS
Vanlue’s Jeremy Kloepfer abides by one basic tenet as a football coach.
“I always go by the philosophy that if you don’t let the other team score, you can never get beat,” he said with a laugh. “So, there you go. It proved true tonight.”
Indeed, Kloepfer’s West team allowed the East not only no points but very little momentum and came away with three turnovers in recording a 13-0 triumph in Saturday night’s Sunny Farms Landfill East-West All-Star Football Game presented by the Fostoria Athletic Boosters at Memorial Stadium.
Liberty-Benton quarterback Austin May was named the winner of the West’s Andy Bish Most Valuable Player Award after scoring one of the West’s touchdowns, completing all of his six passes for 90 yards and rushing five times for 38 yards.
But the 35th renewal of the all-star contest was largely one for the defenses.
“I was getting excited,” May said of watching his squad’s defense, which gave up just 107 yards. “I wasn’t expecting zero, but I’ll take it. Usually an all-star game is high scoring, but about the second, third quarter, I was like, ‘We might shut them out.’ They didn’t score at all, and it was fun.”
The East’s defensive players didn’t show themselves to be slouches either. The West totaled 233 yards and scored both of its touchdowns after relatively short drives.
“I was very proud of the defensive guys we put out there,” said East coach Mike Lento, who is heading into his second season at Lakota’s helm. “They made their reads, they made their tackles. It came down to the West side made more plays than we did.”
Fremont Ross running back Shawn Newsome rolled for most of his 55 yards on nine carries in the second half en route to winning the East’s Tommy Latham MVP Award. But his squad never reached the end zone, and the East had to settle for enjoying the experience of an all-star game.
“It was fun out here,” Lento said. “The kids competed. It was a bunch of seniors on a hot night who had one last chance to play in their high school helmets and be around some of their buddies. I think it was a good football game for people to come out and watch.”
Kloepfer said the West’s defensive effort, with very simple scheming, began with speedy ends Gavin Conrad of Bluffton and Clay Noblit of Van Buren getting into the East backfield.
“This was just two teams out here full of all-stars,” he said. “So, we just basically told our defense, ‘Just go out and play like an all-star.’ That’s what they did. It wasn’t anything I did. It was these guys going out and playing to their abilities. It’s fun to watch it as a coach.”
Then, too, the West had May, who will play at the University of Findlay.
“When I saw his name on our roster, I was like, ‘Yeah, we’re all right,'” Kloepfer said.
May faked a handoff and then raced 10 yards around right end for a touchdown for the game’s first points with 50 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Findlay’s Chase Wilcox kicked the extra point for a 7-0 advantage.
“That bootleg worked,” May said. “It just felt like playing at Liberty-Benton again, running the ball a lot, so it was fun.”
L-B’s A.J. Dobbins recovered a fumble to set the West up on its own 40 in the third quarter. On the seventh play of the possession, Findlay’s Owen Morse broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and then broke to the right for a 9-yard scoring run at the 3:24 mark. A missed kick on the PAT attempt left the count at 13-0.
The East threatened to draw closer immediately afterward by moving into the red zone from its own 30, guided by an unsportsmanlike conduct call against the West and a 17-yard Newsome run. But Fostoria’s Skyler Garcia hoisted the ball into the right corner of the end zone on fourth-and-1 from the West 11 and Van Buren’s Jacob Leal leaped and came down with an interception.
“He made a nice play on that,” Kloepfer said. “Perfect position, went up and made the play. An all-star making an all-star play.”
A pair of three-and-out possessions ensued, with the East’s punt putting the West at its own 16 with 3:15 left in the game. On third and 12 from the West 14, May completed a 26-yard pass to Liberty-Benton teammate Will Poling with 1:27 to go, effectively putting the West in position to run out the clock.
Each team named a winner of the Ian Kuhn Sportsmanship Award. Patrick Henry’s Jacob Stout was the West honoree. The East winner was Devyn Jagodzinski of Fremont Ross.
West 7 0 6 0 — 13
East 0 0 0 0 — 0
WEST — May 10 run (Wilcox kick)
WEST — Morse 9 run (kick failed)
First Downs 8 7
Rushes-yards 26-78 24-80
Passing Yards 155 27
Comp-Att-Int 14-28-0 5-12-1
Punts-Avg. 4-32.8 4-37.5
Fumbles-Lost 4-2 1-1
Penalties-Yards 2-30 0-0