HASTINGS — A little trickery and some razzle-dazzle were just the ticket to get back on track.
After the East team scored 14 points in 28 seconds late in the first quarter Saturday, the West used a fake field goal to get right back in it and an 80-yard punt return for a score to take control. Those two plays, combined with 277 yards of total offense, propelled the West to a 36-14 victory in the eight-man all-star football game at Hastings’ Lloyd Wilson Field.
After the East took a 14-8 lead with its scoring flurry, the West drove to the 8-yard line, where it lined up for an apparent 24-yard field-goal attempt by Brenden Pelster of Chambers-Wheeler Central. Holder Preston Schnitzler of Kenesaw flipped the ball to Pelster, who rolled right and threw back to Schnitzler for a touchdown to tie the game at 14-14 early in the second quarter.
“We had a toss over the back from our place-holder with a tight end delay to go to the corner. But we had three defenders there,” Pelster said. “They had overload, so we just lobbed it up and he (Schnitzler) went and got it. We’ve been practicing this.”
The West added one score, on a 1-yard run by Gideon Monette of Mullen, and missed another opportunity when it couldn’t punch in a touchdown just before halftime and Pelster’s 20-yard field-goal attempt hit the right upright.
Troy Gilligan of Anselmo-Merna, whose interception set up the West’s first touchdown of the game, then broke it open when he gathered in a punt and raced 80 yards for a 30-14 lead. The all-star game is played on a 100-yard field rather than the 80-yard field used in eight-man football in Nebraska.
“That’s a lot of running. When I made the catch, I looked down and the blocking was tremendous,” said Gilligan, who was named the West’s defensive MVP. “There was a big wall built, and when I saw there was one guy to beat and we had a blocker out in front, I just broke one tackle and all that was left was running.
“On the pick, I was just reading the quarterback’s eyes and I could tell the whole time he was going to throw it. As soon as he did, I broke on it and made a play.”
The West made full use of quarterbacks Pelster and Trey Taubenheim of Amherst. Pelster threw for 26 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 52 yards. Taubenheim threw for 93 yards and ran for 35. Their favorite target was offensive MVP Andy Kerkman of Clearwater-Orchard. The 6-foot-8 receiver caught six passes for 100 yards in his last football game and was the intended target on the fake field goal. He will play basketball at Augustana.
“The fake field goal didn’t go as planned, but the scoreboard showed the right thing, so that’s OK,” Kerkman said. “I have to give credit to my quarterbacks, Brenden and Trey. They know where to put the ball, so it was fun. And the line gave us time to do that.”
After Gilligan’s pick set up a 5-yard TD pass from Pelster to Schnitzler, the East answered with its early flurry. Luke Ericson of Osceola hit a pair of passes for 39 yards to spark a 17-play, 80-yard drive, scoring on a 3-yard keeper to trim the deficit to 8-6.
On the West’s first play after that, Kobe Paprocki of Clarkson-Leigh scooped up an errant pitch and raced 20 yards for a TD and a 14-8 lead.
The offensive MVP for the East was Ericson, who had 133 yards of total offense. Kendall Dickson of Bruning-Davenport/Shickley earned the defensive honor for the East. He will play football at Wyoming.
“We got some fire from that fumble,” Dickson said. “Our biggest problem with Kerkman is that we didn’t have the size. It’s hard for a 5-6 guy to guard a 6-8 guy. And we didn’t have a lot of subs because of injuries before the game. We just didn’t piece it together the way we wanted to.”