ANDERSON — Before the 14th Annual East-West Football Classic kicked off, New Palestine head coach Kyle Ralph had a feeling his all-stars were in store for a big night.
“Our practices from Day 1 were incredibly physical. It really carried over tonight,” Ralph said. “I knew if we couldn’t run the ball tonight, the other team had to be incredible on defense.”
Ralph’s East team didn't just come out running – they were equally as prolific in the passing game. Behind 497 yards in total offense, the East proved a beast, defeating the West 56-17 at Collier Field in Anderson.
“It was a lot of fun. I wanted to go out with a win,” Mt. Vernon’s Alec Lohman said. “We were hitting hard at practice and knew we were fundamentally strong. It showed tonight.”
Lohman, a University of Indianapolis recruit, started for the East and rushed for 89 yards on 16 carries. He broke through for two touchdowns to pace a backfield committee that compiled 240 yards from scrimmage.
Lohman’s first touchdown, a 14-yard burst in the first quarter, set the tone for the East, which scored on 8 of 12 possessions.
“Not that many months ago, I was hoping he wouldn’t get any yards in a game, and now tonight, I wanted him to get hundreds,” Ralph joked of his fellow Hoosier Heritage Conference competitor.
“He’s a great kid and came in with the right attitude. He has a tremendous future at UIndy.”
The passing attack wouldn’t be outdone, as the quarterback tandem of Jake Laker (Shelbyville/Hanover) and Tyler Weaver (Centerville/Manchester) combined to pass for 257 yards and four touchdowns.
Laker, a Hoosier Heritage standout, led the duo with 163 yards passing and a rushing touchdown.
Pendleton Heights’ Chandler Wilson – another HHC product – tallied a team-high 83 yards on four catches for the East, including a 30-yard touchdown. Muncie Central’s Timmric Barrett racked up 79 yards receiving and an 80-yard touchdown reception.
Lohman’s future teammate and roommate at UIndy, Tyler Walden of New Palestine joined in the fun, catching three passes for 58 yards in the offensive barrage.
“Our whole Dragon season was great, but this was just as amazing,” said Walden, who helped propel New Palestine to a HHC title and a 13-1 record in 2013-14. “To come out here with a bunch of players from our conference and other players we didn’t know and win; we became really close.
“From the first or second day of practice, we knew something special was going to happen in this game.”
Falling to the West last year, the East put all doubt to rest with a monstrous 21-point third quarter, which balloned its 21-3 halftime lead to 42-17 entering the fourth.
However, the West wouldn’t go quietly.
Settling for a 36-yard field goal from Jorge Cortez (Maconaquah/Ivy Tech) in the first half, the offense forced the East’s defense to bend but hardly break.
The West opened the second half with an 11-play drive, covering 75 yards to cut the lead to 21-10 behind a 1-yard touchdown run by Nathan Hein (Tipton/Hanover).
The East responded with a 51-second drive on the ensuing possession as Weaver found Trevor Bradway (Hagerstown/Ball State) for a 15-yard touchdown strike.
Needing only 12 seconds to retort, the West narrowed the deficit 28-17 when quarterback Keenan Leichty (Huntington North/Wittenburg) connected with high school teammate Scott McClellan (Huntington North/Trine) for a 68-yard touchdown.
Leichty completed 8 of 15 pass attempts for 146 yards. McClellan posted a game-high 171 yards receiving on six catches to lead the West.
On the East’s next two possessions, Laker and Weaver took turns throwing touchdowns with the former finding Wilson and the latter partnering with Barrett.
The dualing teams combined to score four touchdowns in 159 seconds during the frenzied third quarter – three going to the East.
However, with four lost fumbles by the West and a handful for sacks suffered in the game, including one from Eastern Hancock’s Levi Hammond (Vincennes), the East’s offense proved was too much to overcome.
“To start the week, we ended up with a lot of HHC kids we played against or I personally coached, so I knew what thier capabilities were,” Ralph said. “We had a very good and deep receiving corps. They had a great night.”
In the fourth, the East finished the night just as it began - between the tackles.
Lohman’s second score capped a nine-play drive and Lane Blake (Tri/Vincennes) added the team’s fourth touchdown run with 4:32 left on the clock.
“This is what it’s all about, enjoying yourself,” Ralph said. “I told the kids before the game, it’s not about winning, tonight was about ending your high school chapter the way you wanted it to be. It was about ending it all on a positive note.”
Score by Quarters
East 7 14 21 14 — 56
West 0 3 14 0 — 17
E - A. Lohman 14 yd TD run (J. Reum kick)
E - J. Laker 1 yd TD run (J. Reum kick)
W - J. Cortez 36 yd field goal
E - J. Laker 8 yd TD pass to J. Wagner (J. Reum kick)
W - N. Hein 1 yd TD run (J. Cortez kick)
E - T. Weaver 15 yd TD pass to T. Bradway (J. Reum kick)
W - K. Leichty 68 yd TD pass to S. McClellan (J. Cortez kick)
E - T. Weaver 80 yd TD pass to T. Barnett (J. Reum kick)
E - J. Laker 30 yd TD pass to C. Wilson (J. Reum kick)
E - A. Lohman 1 yd TD run (J. Reum kick)
E - L. Blake 1 yd TD run (J. Reum kick)