By SCOTT COTTOS
FOSTORIA — When opportunity knocked for Caden Schroeder, he enthusiastically answered.
With Alex Richards, the East ballcarrier from Gibsonburg, stood up for a 4-yard loss, Schroeder decided to try to make a big play for his West squad.
And the linebacker from McComb came up huge, as he snatched the football from Richards’ arms and ran 55 yards for a touchdown with 7:07 remaining in the second quarter.
The play, which put the West ahead 6-0, held up as a difference maker in the West’s 12-6 victory in the Sunny Farms Landfill All-Star Football Game at Memorial Stadium.
“He’s a special player,” West coach Cory Hefner of Cory-Rawson said of Schroeder, who was named the West’s Andy Bish MVP award winner. “I’m somewhat familiar with him from the (Blanchard Valley Conference). What he does on the field is outstanding.”
The West scored again with a minute left in the quarter when McComb’s Malachi Abbott zipped a 3-yard touchdown pass to Elmwood’s Noah Baker. Neither two-point conversion try was successful.
The East got on the board when Tiffin Calvert’s Fred Fabrizio plunged into the end zone from a yard away with 5:55 to play in the third quarter, but none of the team’s final three possessions proved fruitful.
“I’m extremely happy, especially for these guys,” Hefner said. “They put in a lot of hard work. We only had two practices (by game rules), and to get the result we got tonight, I feel pretty fortunate.”
Coach Chad Long of Fremont Ross and his East squad were left wondering what might have been.
“It was a great game,” Long said. “We left a lot of points out there on the East side. We moved the ball up and down the field. We just couldn’t punch it in or execute that one big play. We dropped a lot of passes that could have been touchdowns or at least third-down conversions that would have moved the chains.
“But, you know, I’m just proud of the kids. They competed; they played hard. You take away that fumble, you know, it’s 6-6. But things like that happen. That’s why you play the game. And our kids played well.”
For Schroeder, his big play was a matter of doing as he’d been coached.
“They always tell you, ‘Play until you hear a whistle,'” the 5-foot-11, 195-pounder said. “No one heard it. I just kept going.
“(Richards) was standing up. We had him stood up. I stripped the ball out and just took off.”
Port Clinton’s Emerson Lowe, a 5-9, 200-pound running back/safety who will play at the University of Findlay, received the East’s Tommy Latham MVP award after rushing 13 times for 70 yards.
Both teams failed on a field-goal attempt in the first quarter, with the West blocking a 30-yard try by Calvert’s Drew Ronski before North Baltimore’s Noah Brian was wide right from 19 yards away.
The West scored on its next possession after Schroeder’s touchdown with a seven-play, 84-yard drive in which Abbott completed passes of 14 and 47 yards to Carey’s Gavin Woods.
Fabrizio set up his own third-quarter touchdown for the East with a 57-yard dash from his team’s 40 yard line to the West 3.
The East’s last chance to tie or win went by the wayside with a three-and-out from midfield. The punt pinned the West at its 6, but it was able to close out the game on nine running plays by Carey’s Jon Racheter, North Baltimore’s Taylor Bishop and Arcadia’s Austin Bohn that gained 41 yards.
Schroeder said he enjoyed strapping on the pads and helmet one more time as a graduated senior.
“It was fun, getting together with a bunch of great kids, playing against a bunch of great kids,” he said. “Good coaching, and it was just fun to compete on a higher level than normal. It was fun just to get everyone together, and especially to win the last game.”
The winners of the Ian Kuhn Sportsmanship Awards were Port Clinton’s Russell DeMarco for the East and Carey’s Devon Orwick for the West.
West 0 12 0 0 — 12
East 0 0 6 0 — 6
WEST — Schroeder 55 fumble return (run failed)
WEST — Baker 3 pass from Abbott (pass failed)
EAST — Fabrizio 1 run (kick blocked)
First Downs 10 13
Rushes-yards 28-89 36-189
Passing Yards 117 91
Comp-Att-Int 8-17-0 10-28-1
Punts-Avg. 5-28.8 3-31.7
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 3-40 6-65