For the first time since 2002 the West blanked the East 6-0 in a defensive West Nebraska All-Star Football Game on a chilly Saturday night at Bearcat Stadium in Scottsbluff.
It was only the second time in 29 years that the game featured a single score to decide the winner. The East defeated the West 6-0 in 1990.
West head coach Jimmie Rhodes of Mitchell felt the East had a powerful team and thought his squad would have to score early and often to win, but his defense held on to the shutout and he lauded the effort of his entire team in the win.
“I thought we were going to have to score on them early and often,” he said. “I’m just proud of our guys. Every school that was represented here did what their town would have wanted them to do. Our guys showed up. There wasn’t a guy out there that didn’t work his tail off.”
The game was plagued with turnovers throughout.
A key fumble by the East deep in its own territory set up the only score.
On the first play after the turnover, Sidney’s Arik Doty found Ogallala’s Lucas Paloucek on a 9-yard touchdown pass to give the West a 6-0 lead after the failed conversion.
Paloucek, who received the West’s Offensive Player of the Game, said he didn’t think that would be the only points of the game.
“At that moment in time, I thought our offense was moving great and we would score more,” he said. “It turned out that we only scored the one touchdown, so it feels great to get that in the win.”
After five consecutive punts by both teams as time ran down in the second quarter, the West caught a break with nine seconds left in the half on an interception from Alliance’s Chandler Stinson on the West 41-yard line. Doty found Scottsbluff’s Keegan Reifschneider for a 21-yard strike to put the West in the red zone with two seconds left, but the East defense held together to stop the drive and keep the score at 6-0 heading into halftime.
The East squad started to pick up some momentum in the second half when Treyvon Brooks of Broken Bow recovered a fumble late in the frame to set the East squad up on the West 17 with seconds ticking down before the final period.
The East was able to move the ball inside the five-yard line. But on a fourth and goal from the four, Valentine’s Lane McGinley, who earned the West’s Defensive Player of the Game, intercepted a pass from Broken Bow’s Grayson Garey to get the ball back for the West squad with 13:00 left to play in the contest.
The East threatened again late in the stanza when Cozad’s Adam Cole hit McCook’s Paxton Terry on a 33-yard pass to the 49-yard line with less than five minutes left to play. However, the West defense stood tall one more time on the drive when Scottsbluff’s Jacob Delzer iced the win for the West with an interception on the East 38.
Rhodes praised the work of his assistant coaches Nick Kuxhausen of Mitchell, JJ Ozuna of Minatare and Brent Bauer of Ogallala, and lauded the work of his entire team throughout the week and in the game.
“It was great. They believed in everything we did,” he said. “They believed in everything we were doing and we kept it simple. The better team prevailed today. It was an unbelievable experience.”
Rhodes and Paloucek were both proud of the bond the team had created throughout the week and Paloucek felt that bond had a lot to do with the win.
“After the first day we really got together as a team and really started to bond,” Paloucek said. “That’s what really drove us to win this game. We knew each other, we knew what everyone needed to do and we formed a really great bond.”
The West has now prevailed in four of the past six games, but the East still has a 24-17-1 advantage in the 42-game series.
East 0 0 0 0 — 0
West 0 6 0 0 — 6
W — Lucas Paloucek 9 pass from Arik Doty (Pass failed)