By SCOTT COTTOS
FOSTORIA — Big Devin Lee accomplished a lot during his high school football career at Clyde, including honorable mention all-Ohio recognition as a senior.
But the 6-foot-2, 310-pounder came up with something new on a rainy Saturday night in the Fostoria Athletic Boosters’ Sunny Farms Landfill East-West All-Star Football Game at Memorial Stadium.
With the assistance of a troubled exchange between the West’s long snapper and holder, Lee blocked Thomas Piccirillo’s 47-yard field goal attempt as time ran out, preserving an 18-16 victory for the East.
It was just the third East win in the 11 last meetings in the game’s 36-year history, and Lee was happy to have his hands in it.
“It was crazy,” he said. “It was an unbelievable experience. That was the one thing I didn’t do while playing for my team, so it was nice to end my high school career on that.”
Piccirillo, of Van Buren, earlier kicked field goals of 28, 37 and 27 yards and an extra point on his way to being named the West’s Andy Bish Most Valuable Player Award. And West coach Cory Hefner, of Cory-Rawson, had full confidence in him as he lined up for the would-be game winner.
“Wet ball — it was wet all night — and he couldn’t really handle the snap,” Hefner said. “It got placed late and that’s why they ended up blocking it. He kicked it. He got his foot on it. I think it just took too long to get it down. (The snap from McComb’s Andrew Smith) was a little low and tough to handle. Like I said, the ball was soaking wet. (The holder) was our quarterback Jared Breece (of Pandora-Gilboa) and he had to try to throw the ball like that all night, too.”
Lee acknowledged thinking Piccirillo could very well make his last attempt, but he did all that he could to prevent it.
“I came off the ball a little bit, more than I had,” he said. “I gave it a little bit extra. But then at the end, once I got in, I made sure I got my hands up. I think they muffed the hold. That’s what delayed it a little bit. It gave me a nice opportunity.”
On a night largely controlled by the defenses, Fremont Ross wide receiver Bryce McKinstry took advantage of his opportunities to catch touchdown throws of 2, 28 and 21 from Ross teammate Hayden Lehman and claim the Tommy Latham East MVP honor.
The West, which got a 2-yard touchdown run from Columbus Grove’s Brady Hauenstein in the second period, led 16-6 after Piccirillo’s final field goal, from 27 yards away, with 2:11 remaining in the third quarter. But Lehman tossed the 28-yard TD pass to McKinstry with 9:22 left in the game, and McKinstry made a diving grab in the end zone for the score from 21 yards out for the game’s final points with 3:31 to play.
McKinstry finished with five catches for 108 yards. His final touchdown came three plays after Ross’ Noah Hotz intercepted Breece to give the East possession at the West 25 with 4:44 left.
“Honestly, Hayden and Bryce played a one-on-one game,” East coach Jon Mershman, of Carey, said. “They played together — let them do what they do.
“Defensively — we played lights out, defensively. I can’t give the defense (enough) credit. Pretty much anytime they scored, we gave them a bad position on offense.”
The East finished with 224 yards of total offense to 148 for the West.
And it couldn’t have been more competitive at the end, as the West drove from its own 29 to the East 30, benefiting from a defensive pass interference call that put the ball at its final resting spot with 32 seconds to go.
“It was an all-star game, but at one point I forgot that it was an all-star game and it was a Friday night, Game 10, win to get in the playoffs and keep on playing type of game,” Mershman said.
“It felt great to win it. I told them before the game: ‘Everybody likes to win. Who hates to lose? That’s what we were going to find out tonight. I think most of the guys we had on this team hate to lose. They hate losing more than the alternative.”
For Hefner and the West, the circumstances softened the blow of losing in a difficult way.
“This game’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I’ve coached in it in the past and as a coach, it’s probably just as fun for me as it is for the kids, to coach one more game, especially at this time of year. We’re not devastated — just disappointed, as we’re all competitors and we all want to win. But my boys played their butts off, we used our strengths to our advantage and made sure the fans got their money’s worth out of the tickets and it went right down to the last second.”
The winners of the Ian Kuhn Sportsmanship Awards were Fostoria’s Shawn Vilaisack for the East and Ottawa-Glandorf’s Logan Clark for the West.
West 0 10 6 0 — 16
East 0 6 0 12 — 18
EAST — McKinstry 2 pass from Lehman (run failed)
WEST — Hauenstein 2 run (Piccirillo kick)
WEST — Piccirillo 28 FG
WEST — Piccirillo 37 FG
WEST — Piccirillo 27 FG
EAST — McKinstry 28 pass from Lehman (run failed)
EAST — McKinstry 21 pass from Lehman (run failed)