Trying to knock off the West All-Stars for the first time in five seasons, the East All-Stars had all the early momentum.
The East defense, anchored by Iowa signee Nathan Bazata of Howells-Dodge, held the West to just 47 yards of total offense while taking a 10-0 lead at halftime.
Enter in former Kenesaw Blue Devil Tyler Schnitzler.
The quarterback and punter made big plays for the West in the second half, including a 12-yard touchdown pass on a screen play to tight end Josh Vinton of Mullen, a 24-yard run on a fake punt and a 34-yard pass to start the West's game-winning touchdown drive.
The University of Nebraska-Kearney recruit, who will move on to play a new position in the fall, earned offensive MVP honors by helping the West score 12 unanswered points in the second half for a 12-10 win, the sixth consecutive for the West team.
"Our lineman did a great job. They knew they needed to pick it up if we were going to win this game, and it showed," said Schnitzler, who finished with 113 yards of total offense. "You can't be more proud of them because they worked their butts off this week.
"It's one last quarterbacking job for me, and being with these guys is a great honor. I'm grateful they were able to help us win."
Neither squad could get much going offensively until the second quarter when the East's Jac Bailey of McCool Junction nailed a 37-yard field goal.
Two possessions later, the East All-Stars padded their lead when Lindsay Holy Family's Kyle Frauendorfer capped an eight-play drive with a three-yard touchdown run to make the score 10-0.
The West offensive line, at times, opted to double and even triple team Bazata inside. But head coach Troy Kieffner of Spalding/Spalding Academy said that tactic was letting free linebackers close down the running lanes.
He also admitted that his offense's first half woes had a lot to do with nerves.
"They just weren't getting their blocks. It was nerves, and they were trying to settle into the game," he said.
Kieffner said at half he challenged the line, and it showed when the West team started off with the ball in the second half.
The West All-Stars put together an 18-play drive that featured 15 runs, five first downs and two fourth down conversions.
On fourth and two from the East's 12-yard line, Schnitzler caught the defense off guard with a screen play to Vinton for the score.
"What we did do in the second half is we stopped combo blocking on Bazata, and we just decided to go man on man," Kieffner said. "We just challenged the guys and said they had to block him one on one."
Schnitzler's run on the fake punt took place early in the fourth quarter. Kieffner said they opted to run the fake because the East All-Stars had loaded up one side.
While the long run took place on a drive that didn't end up in points, it did switch the field in the West's favor.
The East offense went three plays and out on its next possession, and a errant punt gave the West the ball at the East 39-yard line with 6:19 left in the game.
On the first play of the drive, Schnitzler dropped back and hit Potter-Dix receiver Brady Knigge for a 34-yard pass down to the 5-yard line. Two plays later, Shelton running back Luke Glenn powered his way into the end zone for the winning score.
The West defense was able to hold out and preserve the win when Zac Crowley of Elm Creek intercepted a Lane Scheitel (Falls City Sacred Heart) pass late in the fourth quarter. The East offense was held off the board in the second half.
"We made huge stops. Our defense came out and played good today," Kieffner said. "We didn't make any adjustments. We kept it simple all week long."
Former Giltner standout Ryan Kleier earned defensive MVP honors for the West team, tallying nine tackles and one pass breakup from the middle linebacker position.
"I loved playing with these guys," he said. "I was going for MVP, and I'm glad I got it. I just wanted to make Giltner proud."
While his squad didn't win the game, Exeter-Milligan's Robbie Androyna was key for the East defense. Unofficially, he had a hand in 10 tackles. His E-M comrade, Blake Papik, had a sack in the second quarter.
"Personally, it was good to get out on to the field, read the guards and play linebacker on defense. The second half wasn't very pretty, but it was fun," said Androyna, who will continue his career at Iowa Western Community College. "(The West) had a lot of guards pulling and centers cracking down — a lot of counters and traps. We tried, and we played hard."
Future Hastings College Bronco Tanner Fate earned offensive MVP honors for the East team, tallying 11 rushing yards and completing one pass for two yards before leaving the game with a head injury.
Bazata was named defensive MVP for the East.
East All-Stars 0 10 0 0 — 10
West All-Stars 0 0 6 6 — 12
E — Jac Bailey (McCool Junction) 37 yard field goal
E — Kyle Frauendorfer (Lindsay Holy Family) 3 run (Bailey kick good)
W — Josh Vinton (Mullen) 12 pass from Tyler Schnitzler (Kenesaw) (kick failed)
W — Luke Glenn (Shelton) 3 run (pass failed)
First downs 10 8
Rushes-yards 41-107 30-84
Passing yards 91 77
Comp-Att-Int 8-16-1 6-15-1
Total offense 216 161
Penalties-yards 1-15 1-5
RUSHING — WEST, Luke Glenn (Shelton) 17-28, Tyler Schnitzler (Kenesaw) 9-40, Spencer Gydesen (Elwood) 6-25, Brady Knigge (Potter-Dix) 2-5, Ross Schindler (Elgin Public-Pope John) 7-9; EAST, Lane Scheitel (Falls City Sacred Heart) 5-16, Austin Ruskamp (Freeman) 2-3, Jac Bailey (McCool Junction) 10-20, Carlin Krienert (Osmond) 1-3, Jake Touchstone (Lourdes Central Catholic) 7-33, Tanner Fate (High Plains) 2-11, Kyle Frauendorfer (Lindsay Holy Family) 2-4, Marcus Claussen (Wausa) 1-(minus) 6.
PASSING — WEST, Schnitzler 6-13 73, Schindler 3-4 18; EAST, Scheitel 5-8 75, Fate 1-4 2, Claussen 0-2 0, Bailey 0-1 0.
RECEIVING — WEST, Glenn 2-15, Josh Vinton (Mullen) 3-24, Tyson Howard (Ansley-Litchfield) 1-5, Knigge 1-34; EAST, Ruskamp 1-(minus) 2, Cole Arnett (Hampton) 3-43, John Wieser (Humphrey St. Francis) 2-36.