Pittsburg State wide receiver Marques Nelson and Nebraska-Omaha tight end/quarterback Zack Miller each caught go-ahead touchdown passes for the West team as they broke a three-game losing streak with a 28-27 win over the East squad in the Valero Cactus Bowl Division II All-Star Football game Friday night at Javelina Stadium in Kingsville, Texas.

Pittsburg State wide receiver Marques Nelson and Nebraska-Omaha tight end/quarterback Zack Miller each caught go-ahead touchdown passes for the West team as they broke a three-game losing streak with a 28-27 win over the East squad in the Valero Cactus Bowl Division II All-Star Football game Friday night at Javelina Stadium in Kingsville, Texas.
Nebraska-Omaha linebacker Jeff Souder was named Defensive Most Valuable Player of Cactus Bowl Division II All-Star Football Game with a 28-27 decision over the East team Friday night at Javelina Stadium.
The East squad was coached, for the second year in a row, by Pittsburg resident and PSU alum John Levra.
“It was better than the national championship game between Florida and Oklahoma,” Levra said. “It was back and forth all night long.”
Levra, who grew up in Arma, played for Pitt State during their first national championship season and retired in 2002 after coaching 32 years for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.
“There was a real difference in the teams this year and both were very good,” Levra said.
Souder, a first-team All-MIAA performer in '08, earned post-game honors after making a team-high seven tackles (three solos) and breaking up one pass.
Nelson connected with the game's Offensive MVP, quarterback Craig Null of West Texas A&M, on a 38-yard scoring play with 8 minutes, 54 seconds left in the second quarter to make it 14-13. The West squad took over at the East 38 following a 26-yard punt by Nick Krut of East Stroudsburg (Pa.).
Pitt State running back Caleb Farabi had three carries on the scoring drive for 18 of its 48 yards — he finished with nine carries for a team-high 53 yards.
“Caleb ran hard as usual and Marques did very well,” Levra said.
Nelson finished with three receptions for 56 yards.
Miller and Minnesota-Duluth quarterback Ted Schlafke got together for a 14-yard TD pass with 8:18 left in the third period to put the West on top, 21-16.
Miller, who earned second-team All-MIAA recognition as a quarterback, had five receptions for a team-high 116 yards in the game.
Null put the West squad up to stay with 4:20 remaining in the game with his third touchdown pass of the game, a 2-yarder to Winona (Minn.) State tight end Todd Burkoth, making it 28-25. Null was 19-of-27 passing for 240 yards and no interceptions.
The West conceded a safety with 1:41 left rather than punt from its end zone for the final margin.
Windy conditions, which led to the decision to concede the safety late in the game, didn't help Missouri Western punter Jamie Hanson on his only punt of the evening. He had a 32-yard boot into the wind during the first quarter, and also logged a 50-yard free kick after the safety.
UNO running back Brian McNeill finished with 33 rushing yards on five carries, while Miller rushed three times for 10 yards. Souder also was credited with one carry for no yards.
On defense, Truman defensive lineman Les Hammers made five stops (one solo, one for loss of 3 yards) and logged a quarterback hurry. Central Missouri defensive lineman John Wood recorded one tackle.
Farabi, Wood and Northwest Missouri State offensive guard Tom Pestock drew starting assignment for the West. Northwest offensive lineman Reid Kirby also saw action in the game.
“It is always great,” Levra said. “It was nice and warm in south Texas.”

Matthew Clark can be reached at matthew.clark@morningsun.net or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140


WEST 28, EAST 27
East    10    6   6   5 — 27
West     0    14  7   7 — 28
Scoring summary
First quarter
E — Bob Ruffing 1 pass from Corey Russell (Tom Schneider kick) 12:06
E — Schneider 47 field goal 4:35
Second quarter
E — Schneider 35 field goal 14:52
W — Charly Martin 5 pass from Keith Null (Jared Keating kick) 11:21
W — Marques Nelson 28 pass from Keith Null (Keating kick) 8:54
E — Schneider 29 field goal 00:03
Third quarter
W — Zach Miller 14 pass from Ted Schlafke (Keating kick) 8:18
E — Russell 13 run (pass failed) 2:45
Fourth quarter
E — Schneider 24 field goal 10:42
W — Todd Burkroth 2 pass from Null (Keating kick) 4:20
E — Jake Visser safety 1:41
Team statistics
    East    West
First downs    23    21
Rushes-yds.    41-163    26-81
Passing    21-41-1    28-42-2
Passing yds.    257    332
Total offense    420    413
Fumbles-lost    1-0    2-2
Punts-avg.    4-33.8    1-32
Penalties-yds.    5-38    5-55
TOP    34:23    25:37
3rd down conv.    8-19    4-11
4th down conv.    1-2    0-3
Individual statistics
RUSHING — East, Russell 10-71, George Washington 7-55, Mike McLendon 15-32, Sammy Milton 4-7, Julius Pruitt 1-6, Mike McCabe 4-(-8). West, Caleb Farabi 9-53, Brian McNeil 5-33, Ted Schlafke 4-13, Zach Miller 3-10, Daniel Thomas 1-7, Jeff Souder 1-0, TEAM 3-(-35).
PASSING — East, Mike McCabe 10-20-1-156, Russell 11-20-0-101, TEAM 0-1-0-0. West, Keith Null 19-27-0-240, Schlafke 9-15-2-92.
RECEIVING — East, Garett Manning 7-122, Edward Gant 2-35, Denayne Dixon 2-31, McLendon 2-22, Mike Washington 2-21, Dyshaun Edwards 2-16, Milton 1-6, Steven Jackson 1-3, Bob Ruffing 1-1. West, Miller 5-116, Jarrett Byers 3-64, Marques Nelson 3-56, Charly Martin 6-39, Jareko Taylor 4-32, Jonathon Ferguson 2-13, Daniel Thomas 3-8, John Means 1-2, Todd Burkroth 1-2.