Many have heard the tried and true football mantra, "offense wins games, defense wins championships." Saturday at Michigan stadium, observers found out that defense wins all star games as well. In the 25th Annual edition of the Michigan High School All Star Game, the West D, led by future Wolverine Terrence Taylor, held the East team offense to only 41 net yards on the ground, 120 yards overall. They also scored two defensive touchdowns, both on fumble recoveries by Taylor. "It's just the defense," said Taylor after the game. "We've got great coaches. We just worked hard. Knowing each other for five to seven days…we just came together as a team and worked hard. This is the result…a win for the West."
West quarterback Andy Schmidt (Eastern Michigan) started the game's opening drive for the West and connected on two passes, including a 22-yarder to Michael Stevenson. Things later stalled at the East 13 yard line, forcing the West to settle for a Ben Vroegop (Michigan walk-on) 30-yard field goal. The East returned the kickoff eight yards to their own 19, but their first offensive play of the game was a disaster. A fumble led to the game's first touchdown, as Taylor picked up the stray pigskin to give the West an early 10-0 lead. "It was crazy," exclaimed Taylor! "I just saw the ball and I grabbed it."
The East didn't fair much better on its second drive, and allowed the West to go right back to work on offense. After starting out with great field position at its own 47, four consecutive runs drove the offense to the East 39 yard line. That set up a long touchdown pass from Schmidt to Chad Richardson (Findlay) to put the West out front 17-0.
The East offense still had not gotten on track by the start of the second quarter, so their defense had to step up to their plate to jump start the scoring. With the West looking to pad its lead even more, East cornerback Lance Caldwell picked off a Sean Brown pass and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown to make the score 17-7. That proved to be a much needed boost for the East and their defense continued to apply the pressure. On the next drive they stuffed the West offense for negative yardage and forced a punt. Later in the quarter, East quarterback Dontayo Gage hit tight end Connor Barwin (Cincinnati) for a 35-yard touchdown. Despite the missed extra point, the East team had great momentum as they headed into the half down by only four, 17-13.
Both defenses came out of the locker room strong, but in the middle of the quarter it was the West team's D that would step forth with a big play. With the East offense in the shadow of its own goal line, they again mishandled the ball. Terrance Taylor was 'Johnny on the spot' for the second time on the day and put his squad up 23-13."My mind just went blank and I just grabbed it." Taylor later said of the recovery.
Taylor dives on the ball for his second touchdown.
The fourth quarter began with the East offense at the West 25 thanks to an Otis Wiley (Michigan State) fumble on a punt return. The East drove all the way to the West six yard line before cashing in with a fade to Connor Barwin. The future Bearcat made an amazing one handed grab in the corner of the end zone over Wiley's outstretched arm to bring the East within three.
When the West got the ball back, the plan was very clear. They wanted to run the ball and eat some clock. Erik Westdorp did much of the work, as he ran with passion on drive and picked up 47 yards on four carries. The West ate up over seven minutes and 80 yards before Andrew Hawkin (Michigan State) punched it in from one yard out to make the score 30-20.
The East's final drive started with promise, as passes to Frank Zombo (Central Michigan) and Ryan Allison (Michigan State) gained 24 yards. Unfortunately for them, another fumble off of a high snap gave the ball and the game to the West.
After turning in a dominant performance, Terrence Taylor took the time to talk about how special the game was for him. "It means a lot." He said. "My last high school game…with a win and playing with great guys…this is how you want to end it. I wanted to come out and have a good game. I wanted US to come out and have a good game. That's exactly what we did. We came out here and played hard. We beat the East. That's two years in a row. It meant a lot to everybody. I'd been coming to this game for three years. Every game I came to, the West lost [except for] last year, and I didn't come to that game. I just wanted to come here and play hard, have everybody else play hard, show them what it meant to me and hopefully it meant the same to them. We just came out here excited, ready to play football. No one has been in pads in what feels like forever, of course we're going to be hype!"
Although he only registered 1.5 tackles, his dominance was clear. When asked if he felt that he couldn't be blocked, the future Wolverine answered, "at times I felt that way."
The all time series is now 13-12 with the East holding a one game lead.
East Offensive Leaders:
Terrance Blevins: 10 attempts, 49 yards
Dontayo Gage: 5 attempts, 48 yards
Dontayo Gage: 2 of 5 attempts, 43 yards, 1 touchdown
Aaron Roelfs: 3 of 7 attempts, 28 yards
Ryan Allison: 4 catches, 28 yards
Connor Barwin: 2 catches, 41 yards, 2 touchdowns
East Defensive Leaders:
West Offensive Leaders:
Erik Westdorp: 9 attempts, 55 yards
Mike Wiltsie: 9 attempts, 33 yards
Andy Schmitt: 4 of 8, 82 yards, 1 touchdown
Ben Vanzale: 2 catches, 21 yards
Chad Richardson: 1 catch, 39 yards
West Defensive Leaders:
Scott Hekstra: 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack
Otis Wiley: 3 tackles
Bryce Rucker: 2 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack
Terrence Taylor: 1.5 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 touchdowns