West lineman Matt Erbert, of Ellis, holds up receiver Lucas Allen, of Salina Central, after Allen scored on a 30-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter of the 2010 Kansas Shrine Bowl at Carnie-Smith Stadium in Pittsburg, Kan., on July 31, 2010. (AP Photo/The Morning Sun, Sean Steffen)**MANDATORY CREDIT**
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West overcomes self-inflicted wounds for 45-29 Shrine Bowl victory
By ARNE GREEN | Salina Journal

PITTSBURG — There was no panic in the West huddle.

A series of self-inflicted wounds had turned the 37th Kansas Shrine Bowl into a shootout, but with its back against the wall the West came out with guns blazing, and in a matter of minutes it was over.

After the East cashed in on two miscues to take the lead with less than five minutes left, the West answered quickly and decisively, then poured it on the rest of the way for a 45-29 victory at Pittsburg State’s Carnie Smith Stadium.

The win was West’s fifth straight in the series.

“We unfortunately made some mistakes that really hurt us in the second quarter and late in the second half, but we knew the kind of kids we had and we wanted to do our best,” said Hutchinson fullback Josh Smith, whose 17-yard touchdown run with 3:55 left put the West in front to stay. “We knew the East was a great ballclub and was going to fight, but we made some big plays and the defense came up big for us.”

Smith, who was named his team’s most valuable player, rushed for 108 yards and three touchdowns to lead a West offense that amassed 446 total yards — 221 on the ground. Salina South quarterback Jason Seibel added 92 yards rushing and two scores, while McPherson’s Joel Piper completed 10 of 13 passes for 180 yards and one TD.

But after taking a seemingly comfortable 28-14 lead into the fourth quarter, the West found itself staring at a one-point deficit when Topeka High quarterback Sam Johnson ran 18 yards for a touchdown then threw to Shawnee Mission West’s Adam LeBlanc for the two-point conversion at the 4:54 mark.

“We all knew what we needed to do, and we played great,” said Piper, who completed all three of his passes for 63 yards on the go-ahead drive. “The line kept the defense off me, and I couldn’t ask for any more than that.

“We just needed to make big plays and we did.”

The first key play was a 12-yard completion from Piper to Abilene’s Curry Sexton on third down and 11 from the West 25.

“I knew I had to step up and make a play,” said Sexton, whose six catches for 81 yards led the West. “We have so many playmakers on this team.

“Joel threw two great passes on the two stick routes, and we kept the sticks moving.”

Piper followed the third-down completion with a 17-yard strike to Sexton. After an illegal substitution penalty, he found Wichita Collegiate’s Brett LeMaster alone down the right sideline for 34 yards. On the next play, Smith burst up the middle and veered to his right for the touchdown.

Piper hit Dodge City’s Landon Head with a two-point conversion pass that pushed the lead to 36-29.

On the East’s next play, Oakley’s Ethan Jirak tackled Johnson in the end zone for a safety following a bad shotgun snap from center. After the free kick, the West drove 50 yards for the game’s final score, culminating with a 3-yard Seibel run.

Smith’s power running, combined with the pass-run quarterback tandem of Piper and Seibel kept the East defense off balance most of the night.

“Josh is an animal running the ball, and Joel is an animal throwing the ball, and I can run pretty well, too,” said Seibel. “That made us pretty tough to stop.

“Joel was great on that (go-ahead) drive, and it was just a matter of minutes before we scored again.”

A blocked field goal got the East back in the game, leading to a 28-yard touchdown pass from team MVP Johnson to Olathe East’s Chris Field that Rogers had his hands on but could not hold. The extra point cut the West lead to 28-21.

The East took advantage of West mistakes but managed just 180 yards total offense. Johnson completed 11 of 21 passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another, while Troy Albright rushed for a team-high 41 yards on eight carries.

The West looked unstoppable early, scoring on its first three possessions, only to stall in the second period, thanks to a pair of costly fumbles.

After holding the East on downs to open the game, the West marched 66 yards in nine plays behind Smith. Smith ran six times for 41 yards on the drive, including a 2-yarder for the touchdown.

A shanked punt gave the West possession at the East 30-yard line for its second series, and it needed just two plays for Piper to find Salina Central tight end Lucas Allen up the middle for a 30-yard touchdown. Allen reached high to pull the ball down, tucked it and raced untouched to the end zone.

Seibel was the star of the third West scoring drive, completing both of his passes for 18 yards, then racing 18 yards for the touchdown.

A West fumble set up the lone first-half score for the East, a 3-yard run by Jordan Tice that cut it to 21-7 at the break. Johnson hit Ryan Mueller with a 1-yard pass in the third quarter after another West fumble, but Smith answered with a 3-yard run for the West.

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West overcomes self-inflicted wounds for 45-29 Shrine Bowl victory

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