SAN ANTONIO - The West team ended the East's two-game win streak in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl with a 30-14 win on Saturday at the AlamoDome in San Antonio, Tex. Michigan target Sean Parker was part of the West's victorious performance.
"We just came out focused and determined. It's a team effort and as a team we pulled through," Parker said. "[The win] meant a lot to us because we've been hearing all this talk about the East. We had to come out and prove a point… show who the best team was."
The West did come out of the gates quickly, scoring the game's first three touchdowns. The East did not put points on the board until the fourth quarter, but they did put a little doubt into the outcome when they scored twice in a 107-minute span to pull within nine points. When they failed to recover the onside kick following their second touchdown, however, the West held the ball for the final seven minutes to preserve their victory.
The 5-10, 185-pound Parker, out of Harbor City's (Calif.) Narbonne High School, did not register a tackle in the game, but few plays came his way. He did contribute by throwing blocks on turnovers, one of which came on a fourth quarter blocked extra point that the West's Ronald Powell - who was named the game's MVP - returned for a two-point conversion.
Powell, a Florida commitment from Moreno Valley, Calif., got the scoring started in the first quarter. The 6-4, 230-pound Powell's primary position is defensive end, but he came into the game as a tight end for a fourth and one play and ran a corner route. West quarterback Connor Wood threw a high pass and Powell went up and pulled it down in the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown reception.
The West scored another touchdown in the second quarter when defensive tackle Cassius Marsh blocked a Michael Palardy field goal attempt. West linebacker Josh Shirley scooped up the loose ball and ran 77 yards to the end zone to make it a 14-0 game with 10:48 remaining in the first half.
West running back Dillon Baxter made it a 21-0 game early in the third quarter when he took a handoff, made an East tackler miss with a quick juke move and pounded the ball into the end zone from five yards out.
"The guy penetrated pretty fast and I guess it was my running back instinct to make a cut, then I hit the hole," Baxter said.
The East finally got on the board when quarterback Cole Marcoux, who was selected to the game as part of a reality television show, proved his invitation was more than a novelty. The 6-5, 235-pound Dartmouth-bound signal caller fired a pass to wide receiver Ivan McCartney over the middle of the field. McCartney split the West safeties and went 50 yards for the East's first touchdown.
A Calvin Barnett blocked extra point and Powell's returned the blocked kick 99 yards for a two-point conversion.
With the score at 23-6 with 8:48 left in the game, the East chose to attempt an on-side kick and the move paid off when East linebacker Zach Zwinak recovered the kick. Seven plays later Marcoux hit running back Gerald Christian on a screen pass and Christian took it 16 yards for a score to make the game 23-14 with seven minutes remaining in the game.
A second on-side kick attempt by the East was unsuccessful and the West offense was able to hold onto the football for the remainder of the game. They tacked on one final touchdown as time ran out when Baxter fumbled short of the goal line and offensive lineman Dominic Espinosa jumped on the loose ball in the end zone.
Although their team did not win, Michigan commitments Cullen Christian of Pittsburgh and Will Hagerup Whitefish Bay, Wisc., both performed well. Christian was thrown at only four times in the game. Three of those pass attempts resulted in incompletions, but the fourth pass in Christian's direction resulted in a Robert Woods 39-yard reception.
The 6-4, 215-pound Hagerup also had one miscue, but he bounced back with a solid effort the remainder of the game. Hagerup's first punt covered just 34 yards and was fair caught at the 20-yard line. He had just two punts the remainder of the day, but both went over 50 yards with one covering 51 yards and his final punt going for 53 yards.
"My brother has been in some big stadiums before and he was saying after that first kick you'll be a lot more calm," Hagerup said. "The first kick I was real nervous and it definitely could have been better. I was definitely more relaxed for the second two."
With the West's win, the series record in the Army Bowl is all even with each team having five wins. Total attendance for Saturday's game was 34,126.