The East All-Stars desperately wanted to end the seven-game winning streak of the West in the Kansas Shrine Bowl.
In a give-and-take football game where both teams punched each other in the mouth several times, the East delivered the final blows in a 22-19 win Saturday night over the West at Yager Stadium in the 40th edition of the annual football showcase and charity event.
The West can now say bye-bye to its winning streak.
“It was pretty crazy,” Pittsburg High graduate and incoming Pittsburg State freshman Spencer Bernhardt said by phone interview around 10:45 p.m. “The 33 of us (East players) became a family and it was great to break the streak we’ve all been hearing about so much the past few months as a family. That was one of the best times of my life.”
Bernhardt — who considers the late Dylan Meier his personal hero and inspiration — intercepted a Zeke Palmer pass to big Drew Kite in the end zone, catching the ball and getting his left foot in-bounds to preserve a 22-19 lead with 1 minute, 33 seconds remaining on the clock.
Bernhardt said that the East had switched from zone to man right before the play in the end zone and he drew Kite. Bernhardt said he checked the backfield, kept an eye on Palmer as he shifted directions and then as he made the interception, Bernhardt said he looked down and made sure he got at least one foot down along the sideline. He did, and the East celebrated.
“This was the best week of my life,” Bernhardt said. “Playing on the same team with rivals in high school, guys I thought I hated, and then becoming a family. . . . The hospital visitation alone was a life-changing experience. . . . I’m on cloud nine and I’ll be that way for a while.”
Peter Pfannenstiel of Silver Lake also made a crucial open-field tackle on Cody Busby on the final play of the game. Busby took a lateral and had plenty of wide-open space but Pfannenstiel, who considers Silver Lake head coach C.J. Hamilton his personal hero, made his ninth and final stop of the game.
“That was a crazy play,” Bernhardt said. “I saw my life flash before my eyes.”
The East took a 22-19 lead on a 20-yard halfback pass from former Blue Valley West standout Conley Wilkins to Austin Moses, plus a conversion pass to Moses — 3:04 left in the battle.
Bernhardt said the halfback pass had been working on the East defense in practice all week and he’s glad that it worked against the West in the game.
With the lack of a kicking game on such relative short notice and with nobody chosen solely for kicking, both teams went for several conversions rather than extra points.
Page 2 of 3 - “We switched kickers about five times during the week,” Bernhardt said.
The West took a 19-14 lead with 6:09 remaining on a Busby 6-yard scamper but the East stuffed Palmer on the conversion. West do-everything player and Princeton recruit Markus Phox kicked the only extra point of the evening.
Early on, it looked as if the game would be a low-scoring battle royale. For example, the East defense stymied the West offense to a ridiculous degree after one quarter — 5 yards from scrimmage on 12 plays or an average of .42 yards per play.
“In an All-Star Game, it takes a while for the offense to find its rhythm,” Bernhardt said. “The offenses and the defenses both had their time.”
Bernhardt recorded five tackles (three solo, two assist) in addition to his primetime interception.
A Pittsburg native and Pittsburg High grad played a central role in the 17-10 win in 2005, one Kerry Meier. He set up his own game-winning touchdown run with a pass to Andre Jones. The West had tried an onside kick, which did not go 10 yards, and the East took over possession at the West 38.
“Andre Jones, he’s one heck of a guy,” Meier told the Morning Sun after the 2005 game. “He was in my ear the whole game . . . ‘Man, I got this guy (beat) off the line. Just give me a chance and throw the ball up there.’ I knew he’d come down with the ball. He’s lights out on that. . . .
“I didn’t really take a peek at the clock. I was concentrating on getting in the end zone and winning that ball game. . . . I was very surprised to see the onside kick. I knew that rule . . . nobody likes a tie. And when I saw that happen, I thought oh boy, they made a mistake right there. I’m thankful for that.”
Pittsburg and Carnie Smith Stadium host the 2014 Shrine Bowl.
2013 Kansas Shrine Bowl
at Yager Stadium, Topeka
East 22, West 19
E 0 6 8 8 — 22
W 0 6 7 6 — 19
W — Drew Kite 7 pass from Markus Phox (pass failed) 7:00
E — Denzel Chilcoat 31 run (failed) 4:39
W — David Cardinal 2 run (Phox kick) 6:39
E — Tye Hughes 19 pass from Marc Walbridge (pass good) :15
W — Cody Busby 6 run (run failed) 6:09
E — Austin Moses 20 pass from Conley Wilkins (pass good) 3:04
Passing — East, Raymond Solis 9-22-0-0-76, Marc Walbridge 7-7-1-0-69, Conley Wilkins 1-1-1-0-20. West, Zeke Palmer 14-20-0-1-175, Markus Phox 1-1-1-0-7, Seth Newlan 0-1-0-0-0.
Rushing — East, Denzel Chilcoat 7-83, Solis 12-34, Kyle Hammond 2-7, Wilkins 1-2, Tye Hughes 1-1, Walbridge 1-0, Brett Sterbach 3-(-2). West, Palmer 13-68, Kip Keeley 9-23, David Cardinal 9-20, Newlan 4-10, Cody Busby 6-2.
Page 3 of 3 - Receiving — East, Hughes 4-25, Staton Rebeck 4-16, Austin Moses 3-76, Dayton Valentine 2-30, Dakota Turner 1-7, Chilcoat 1-6, Wilkins 1-3, Sterbach 1-2. West, Phox, 6-62, Keeley 5-77, Wes Phillips 2-12, Drew Kite 1-7, Jacob Brooks 1-7, Busby 0-17.