ANDERSON — Mike Roeder must have watched James Young run rampant in the Class 4A football state championship last season.
The state-record breaking performance (282 yards) posted by the former New Palestine rusher would certainly explain the Northeastern coach’s game plan during Friday night’s 15th Annual East-West All-Star Classic.
Roeder, the East coach, mimicked the Dragons’ recipe for success and handed the ball to Young a game-high 11 times, then watched as the Rose-Hulman-bound runner ground out 39 tough yards in helping the East win a 27-6 contest against the West.
“It was a little weird being out here because it’s the middle of the summer,” said Young, who certainly didn’t look out of sorts as he piled up 55 total yards. “I didn’t even know I was going to get the ball a single time, but I was happy to be involved.”
Young also hauled in a pair of passes, including an excellent shoe-string grab, for 16 yards during the rain-soaked evening at Anderson High School.
The receptions, rare in his Dragons days, were only his second favorite part of the game, though. The best part, he said, was being able to reunite with Dragons state champions and East teammates Garret Kuhn (University of Iowa) and Sterling Curran one last time.
“That was pretty cool,” Young said. “We got to do all of our little pregame traditions one more time.”
Curran, who collected four tackles at linebacker, was a part of an East defense that held the West to 202 total yards.
“It’s a little different than (playing with the Red Rage),” said Curran, who is headed to Marian University in the fall. “But I felt good. I enjoyed learning a new defense on the go. With only a week to prepare it was tough, but it was a lot of fun.”
While having a hand in a spectacular defensive effort was nothing new to the reigning co-Hancock County Defensive Player of the Year (along with former Dragon and future Marian teammate Gabe Estes), the postgame celebration — or lack thereof — caught him off guard.
“The weird thing was me James and Garrett, after we shook hands, ran around the corner like we were going to get on the bench and sing our fight song, but then we were like, ‘Oh wait, we’re the only ones here,’” Curran said with a laugh.
With the field already wet and the rain unrelenting, the game began and progressed slowly.
In the first quarter, all either team could muster were a couple of field goals by Luke Oliver (Marion/Franklin College) that gave the West a 6-0 advantage.
However, early in the second quarter, quarterback Adam Lovan (Shenandoah/Wabash) finally got the East on the board with a 5-yard touchdown scamper. Eastern Hancock’s Cooper Henderson tacked on the extra point to put the East ahead 7-6.
The ex-Royals’ Swiss-army knife went 3-for-4 on point after attempts, punted for the East, hauled in one pass for 16 yards and recorded a tackle on special teams.
“I was right at home,” said the future Manchester University weapon of his super-utility role Friday night. “It was just like being back at Eastern.”
The East’s lead grew to 14-6 when Joey Claypoole (Northeastern/Ball State) hit Auntonio Brown (Richmond/Urbana University) for a 39-yard touchdown down the near sideline with less than 45 seconds left in the first half.
A few minutes into the third quarter, Jonah Thacker (Triton Central/Hanover) added a 6-yard rush around the right edge, before Claypoole sealed the game with a 23-yard run up the middle in the fourth quarter to give the East its 27-6 advantage.
Claypoole finished with a game-high 56 yards passing and 47 yards rushing.
More county highlights
Mt. Vernon’s Wyatt Gutierrez played on an East offensive line that paved the way for 197 rushing yards.
Greenfield-Central’s Zach Phillips (University of Jamestown) picked up a tackle and a quarterback hurry. On the hurry, he pummeled West passer Dakota Brooks (Madison Grant/State Police Training), nearly forcing him into an interception.
Eastern Hancock linebacker Logan Splater (Ivy Tech) recorded two tackles while playing linebacker for the East.
New Palestine wide receiver Kuhn was targeted on a deep route on East’s first offensive play, but Claypoole overshot him.
East All-Stars 14, West All-Stars 6
W—Luke Oliver 36-yard field goal, 5:05
W— Luke Oliver 46-yard field goal, 1:04
E — Adam Lovan, 5-yard run (Cooper Henderson kick), 8:22
E — Auntonio Brown, 39-yard pass from Joey Claypoole (Cooper Henderson kick), 0:47
E — Jonah Thacker, 6-yard run (Cooper Henderson kick), 7:23
E — Joey Claypoole, 23-yard run (kick no good), 8:31