By SCOTT COTTOS
FOR THE COURIER
FOSTORIA — After rallying from 24 points down to take a 32-30 lead with 2:09 left in Saturday night’s East-West Coaches All-Star Game sponsored by the Fostoria Athletic Boosters, the West had every reason to be excited.
But Dale Irby wasn’t quite finished.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Sandusky Perkins standout returned a kickoff 67 yards for his fourth touchdown of the game with 1:59 to go and then snuffed out one final West surge with an interception as the East recorded a 36-32 win in the 31st renewal of the annual contest at Memorial Stadium.
Irby earlier ran 34 yards for a touchdown and caught scoring passes of 20 and 21 yards en route to earning the East’s Tommy Latham Most Valuable Player Award.
“I’ve had the opportunity to coach him the last four years and he is a very, very, very, very special football player,” East coach Jason Ziegler of Perkins said. “He’s going to Ashland University and he’s probably one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached.”
The West, after trailing 30-6 in the third quarter, took its first lead at 32-30 when McComb’s Clay Dysert plunged into the end zone to finish off a 6-yard touchdown run with 2:09 to go.
“I was telling the kids all night to relax and be athletes — you know, go out and have fun,” said West coach Kevin Shoup of Van Buren. “It seemed like it took them until the second half to do exactly that — relax and be athletic and make plays. And that’s exactly what they were doing. So I was proud of them for that. Once they took the edge off, they just started playing football.”
Pandora-Gilboa quarterback Seth Schmenk threw for three touchdowns and a two-point conversion and won the West’s Andy Bish Most Valuable Player Award.
But three turnovers — two of them occuring in East territory — proved costly to the West in the first half as the East built a 13-6 halftime advantage behind Irby’s 34-yard touchdown sweep around right end in the first quarter and a 21-yard scoring pass from Tiffin Columbian’s Donovan Walker to Irby in the second,
The East’s touchdowns sandwiched a 6-yard touchdown toss from Schmenk to Liberty-Benton’s Chase Cook early in the second period.
Norwalk’s Garret McFarland caught a short pass from Walker and rumbled to a 44-yard scoring play with 12:56 remaining in the third quarter, and Walker’s shovel pass to Hopewell-Loudon’s Cody Malone was good for a two-point conversion and a 21-6 advantage. The East’s lead jumped to 23-6 with 11:40 to go when the snap from center sailed over the head of punter Cook deep in West territory and Cook kicked the ball out of the end zone for a safety.
The East increased its lead to 30-6 when Walker threw 21 yards to Irby for a touchdown and Fremont St. Joseph’s Bennett Weickert kicked the extra point with 4:40 to go in the third quarter.
Back came the West, however. First, Cook made a diving reception of a Schmenk pass for a 32-yard touchdown play with 3:13 to go in the third quarter. Then came a 41-yard scoring pass from Schmenk to
Lima Shawnee’s Justin Fullom and a two-point conversion pass from Schmenk to Dysert to cut the East’s lead to 30-20 with 11:40 left in the game.
McComb’s Andrew Gibson ran 7 yards for a touchdown to make it 30-26 with 7:48 to go before the West finally went ahead.
Irby didn’t let the West lead for long, though, after he fielded a kickoff that bounced into the back row of the East’s kickoff return team.
“I just went up the middle and saw the outside open,” Irby said. “I took off outside and saw a green light from there to the goal line.”
Irby punctuated his return by dunking the ball over the crossbar of the goalpost, drawing a 15-yard unsportmanlike conduct penalty that was assessed on the kickoff.
After starting its last possession from its own 37, the West advanced to the East 37 on a 26-yard pass from Schmenk to Vanlue’s Nick Hagerty before Irby sealed the win by picking off Schmenk’s pass with 34 seconds left.
Norwalk’s McFarland and Patrick Henry’s Reid Nye were the winners of the Ian Kuhn Sportsmanship Award for the East and West, respectively.
EAST 7 6 17 6 — 36
WEST 0 6 6 20 — 32
E — Irby 34 run (Weickert kick)
W — Cook 6 pass from Schmenk (run failed)
E — Irby 20 pass from Walker (kick failed)
E — McFarland 44 pass from Walker (Malone pass from Walker)
E — Safety, Cook kicked ball out of end zone
E — Irby 21 pass from Walker (Weickert kick)
W — Cook 32 pass from Schmenk (pass failed)
W — Fullom 41 pass from Schmenk (Dysert pass from Schmenk)
W — Gibson 7 run (pass failed)
W — Dysert 6 run (run failed)
E — Irby 67 kickoff return (pass failed)