West turns back East in thrilling Shrine contest

August 01, 2008 11:00 pm

By MIKE FERGUSON

Baker City Herald

Brody Wilkins of Mohawk High School capped a perfect season with a near-flawless performance in Saturday's East-West All-Star Shrine football game, rushing for 77 yards, passing for a touchdown, and kicking four extra points.

It turned out his accurate and powerful toe — rather than his feet or his arm — was the difference. The West team turned back a spirited comeback effort by the East to gain a 28-26 victory before a sun-drenched and enthusiastic Baker Bulldog Memorial Stadium crowd at the 56th annual all-star contest, which showcases the state's best small school seniors.

"To go out this way was really great," Wilkins said. "The offensive line did a great job driving them back, and we played a smart, fast game of football."

Wilkins made up for his only miscues of the game — a missed 43 yard field goal late in the fourth quarter and a fumble with 27 seconds left — by intercepting a desperation pass by East quarterback Logan Garner of Burns as time expired.

"I had to pick off that last pass," he explained. "I put us in that situation."

Throughout the game he gave his team a much better chance to win than to lose. Hard-nosed running, mostly on quarterback draws, kept the chains moving for the West team, which amassed 239 yards on the ground on 55 carries.

While going the whole way at quarterback, Wilkins also played most of the East snaps at safety.

The East team was even more efficient running the football than their opponent, rushing for 237 yards on 37 carries, a 6.4 yard average. Cory McCaffrey, whose 8,430 career rushing yards at Sisters is the 16th most in high school football history, was as good as advertised, carrying 13 times for 103 yards.

Loren Stewart of Ontario added 60 yards on 14 carries, and Larry Ragsdale of Illinois Valley had 59 yards on 3 carries, including a 59-yard run with 2:05 left to play that pulled his team within 2 points, 28-26.

The 5-5 1/2, 130-pound Cougars' running back said he expected to see at least a safety as he turned the corner on his electrifying run, "but no one was there. There was only one guy left, and he didn't have much of an angle on me."

Garner's 2-point pass attempt was intercepted, but the East got one last chance after Joseph's Ben Garnett recovered Wilkins' late-game fumble. Garner tried two straight passes to McCaffrey, but the West defense smothered the Sisters star each time. Garner's final pass found its way into Wilkins' waiting arms.

Ragsdale had a tough night kicking, missing all three of his PAT attempts.

He did put his team on the scoreboard first, hauling in a 37 pass from Sisters quarterback Jarred Hasskamp with 13:19 left in the first quarter (the Shrine game employs the same 15-minute quarters that the NFL uses).

La Salle running back Chris Nagle answered just 2 minutes later, running left from 8 yards out and into the end zone untouched. Wilkins' first PAT made it 7-6 in favor of the West.

But Hasskamp drove his team for its second score, finding Matthew Ellis of Stanfield in traffic from 10 yards out for a 12-7 East advantage. McCaffrey set up the score with a 23-yard burst that put the ball on the 15 yard line, and a West penalty moved it to the 10.

The West owned the second quarter, driving early on half the field to the East 1, where Kyle Bransen of Yamhill-Carlton punched it in with 13:11 remaining before halftime.

Defensive lineman Robert Kudell then helped the West finish off the first-half scoring when he recovered a Hasskamp fumble following a sack on the East 14 yard line.

One play later, Darrell Fields of Gladstone took an inside handoff and scored. The Wilkins conversion made it 21-12 in favor of the West at halftime.

The intermission is when Shrine organizers put away the pigskin and bring out the beef — in this case, Dudley, the 2008 Shrine Steer, shown by his owner and trainer, Nicole Markgraf.

Dudley was purchased and then donated back six times before being finally purchased by Ted Orr of Haines. For his 10 minutes of work at halftime, Dudley netted the Portland Shriners Children's Hospital a cool $15,400.

A football autographed by NFL and University of Oregon great Dan Fouts fetched $350.

Once they'd again taken the field, the East tried to put the game out of reach in the third quarter. Wilkins found Oakland's Andrew Young on a 43-yard scoring pass to make it 28-12 just after Dudley had been led off the field.

But the East defense wasn't nearly done. A bad snap and a fierce rush forced Wilkins to run out of his own end zone for a safety, and the East team scored again moments later on McCaffrey's 26-yard run to cut the lead to 28-20.

The Ragsdale end-around near the game's final gun completed the scoring.

After the game, players lingered a while with family and friends. West tailback Nick Conner of Colton enjoyed the company of about 45 family members and friends, all dressed in identical green T-shirts. The contingent cheered loudly every time their hero checked into the West huddle.

Baker High School graduate Don Everson drew the first cheers of the afternoon, rendering a soaring a capella rendition of the National Anthem.

"I wasn't expecting to do that!" he said after the game. "They only asked me last night."

Everson said the way he and his teammates bonded made the long two-a-day practices worthwhile.

"I couldn't have asked for more," he said.

His East teammate, Mike Stephens of Powder Valley, echoed that assessment.

"We came together as a team. I loved every minute of it," he said. "And we were evenly matched. I think if we played 100 times, we'd win 50 of them."

West 7 14 7 0 — 28

East 12 0 8 6 — 26

E — Ragsdale 37 catch from Hasskamp (kick failed)

W — Nagle 11 run (Wilkins kick)

E — Ellis 10 pass from Hasskamp (kick failed)

W — Bransen 1 run (Wilkins)

W — Fields 14 run (Wilkins kick)

W — Young 43 pass from Wilkins (Wilkins kick)

E — Safety, Wilkins ran out of end zone

E — McCaffrey 26 run (kick failed)

E — Ragsdale 59 run (pass failed)

Individual statistics

Rushing — West: Wilkins 16-77, Nagle 13-50, Conner 9-38, Fields 2-36, Forrester 12-35, Bransen 2-2, Young 1-1. East: McCaffrey 13-103, Stewart 14-60, Ragsdale 3-59, Bonotto 1-15, Garnett 1-5, Pratt 1-4, Garner 4--9).

Passing — West: Wilkins 2-4-58-1 TD. East: Hasskamp 5-12-85 1 TD, Stewart 1-1-16, Garner 5-9-30-1 Int.

Receiving — West: Rainwater 1-15, Young 1-43. East: Stewart 3-37, Ragsdale 1-37, McCaffrey 5-30, Lessley 1-17, Ellis 1-10.