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West defeats East in Indiana Football Hall of Fame Classic

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

It may have been the last high school game for those that took the field Friday night at the Indiana Football Hall of Fame East-West Classic, but for those who took part in it, game was a fine way to close the book on their prep playing days.

The West squad, coached by Maconaquah head coach Mark Hartman and encompassing the three Miami County schools, edged out the East squad with a late stop on a conversion for a 22-21 win.

Hartman said the entire weeks’ worth of work was a great experience for all involved.

“We met on Sunday to talk with the players and practiced Monday through Thursday at Oak Hill for two hours a day,” Hartman said. “Originally, we had 37 players on the roster but due to injury, vacations and prior commitments, we only had 26 dress for the game and with one injured, played 25 kids Friday.

“That aside, it was such a great experience to bring these guys in, the best of the best of the teams in the area. We worked on schemes during the week and it was a tremendous honor to work with a great group of young men.”

Six Miami County athletes were originally chosen to be in the game with Peru’s Marco Baez and Dawson Dwyer able to attend and play in the game held at Anderson High School.

Hartman said the Tiger pair were invaluable part of an offensive line that helped the West team go on the attack.

“Dawson and Marco both did a tremendous job and help up their end of the bargain on the offensive line,” Hartman noted. “They were tremendous in pass protection all game.

“They don’t keep stats at the game but the offense threw for somewhere near 300 yards and ran for around 200 yards.”

North Miami’s Jeff Eckrote and Trevor Linn and Maconaquah’s Joe Ferry and Jarred Spohn were also selected to participate but were unable to attend due to prior commitments.

Getting ready for the game held Friday was simple according to Hartman, the head coach and offensive coordinator for the West squad, pointing to the talent of the players for making things work in such a short time.

“We mainly worked on concept football during the week,” Hartman said. “We used a spread formation and made sure that anyone could play any spot on the offense.

“The kids handled the concepts well for having such a short time to look at them. When they came in last Sunday, we gave them the plays and they took off with it during the week, running things very well and with everyone contributing.”

Hartman also appreciated the way the players prepared themselves, noting that the physical condition of the group was great all week.

“The past week was not exactly a cool one but all the players came prepared,” Hartman said. “We didn’t have any issues with guys being out of shape or being gassed by the end of the game.

“Everyone came out hard and fast and stayed that way all game.”

The game itself got off to a bit of a rocky start for the West as the team fumbled away their first possession and the East moved down quickly to score for a 7-0 lead.

Near the end of the first quarter, Marion’s Xavier Fuller hauled in a 13-yard touchdown pass to trim the deficit to 7-6, though the two-point conversion failed.

Another Giant, Darrick Jones, snagged a 38-yard yard score in the second quarter to take the lead with Fuller converting the conversion for a 14-7 lead, where the game would stay until the second half.

The East responded with a pick-six and conversion to take a 15-14 lead but a score late in the third and conversion pushed the West back ahead 22-15.

A score in the final minute nearly saw the East sneak away with a win but the West defense stuffed the two-point conversion to preserve the win.

Hartman said the high and the lows of the game were just like any other Friday night.

“The fans got their moneys’ worth, that’s for sure,” Hartman said. “The game was back-and-forth with some big hits and great plays.

“Heading into next year, this is a game we want to pump up a little more and get some more participants out for as there are a lot of things out there battling for their attention during the summer. The game supports the Indiana Football Hall of Fame and we’re already talking about things we can do next year.”

Hartman added he appreciated the work of the players and coaching staffs that put in the time to prepare for the week, saying the organizers would be looking for ways to expand the experience for those participating in the game.

“It’s a joy to be a part of the game,” Hartman said. “We get to work with some great players, who stepped into a new offense and defense, who played hard all week.

“We were excited this morning, texting around to see what things we could do to make this experience better. I’m very appreciative of the staff for the time they give up to do this as it does mess with some schedules but it is a labor of love. 

“And just like any win, waking up (Saturday morning), the grass was a little greener, the air a little fresher and everyone involved is riding on a cloud right now.”