West perseveres to win Freedom Bowl Classic

After shaky opening quarter, team rallies for 22-14 victory in all-star showcase

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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photoUnion High School graduate Zak Browning scores the first of his two rushing touchdowns for the East team during Saturday's game.

(/The Columbian)

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It looked like the West all stars were going to be on the wrong end of a rout after the first quarter of Saturday night’s Freedom Bowl Classic.

Then it turned into, well, kind of a classic for the West.

Karl Graves of Skyview caught five passes for 115 yards and two second-half touchdowns, and Battle Ground quarterback Chris Paul was 10 of 17 for 146 yards, leading the West to a 22-14 victory over the East stars at Kiggins Bowl.

The annual charity game features recent graduates from Southwest Washington.

“It’s crazy,” Graves said of being named the overall MVP of the game. “Everybody else was playing super good, too. I just had one of those nights. Chris Paul kept finding me. It was a fun night. A great way to end high school, and being at Kiggins one last time.”

Paul was the lone quarterback for the West, and after a tough first quarter for his squad, he settled in, getting the ball to his receivers.

“Our coaches were saying, ‘Keep your heads in the game.’ No one really got down on each other,” said Paul, named the offensive player of the game for his squad. “Everyone was like, ‘We’re good, we’re good. Don’t worry about it.’ It was such an honor to come out here.”

The East stars led 7-0 after a dominating first quarter in which they gained 81 yards and held the West to negative yardage.

The West went three-and-out on its first three possessions.

Sam Ferenchak of Union was the East’s defensive player of the game.

Then the West went to the air.

Kimothy King of Hudson’s Bay threw a perfect pass on the halfback-option play to Columbia River’s Kevin Cotter for a 48-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7 early in the second quarter. It was the 10th play from scrimmage for the West offense after the first nine went for negative-7 yards.

Then the West got defensive, too.

Union’s Zak Browning gained 45 yards on his first seven carries on the East’s first drive of the game, finishing with a 1-yard touchdown run. He was held to 45 more yards on his next 18 carries.

“Our defense was relentless. We just got better and better all game,” said Kelso’s Cedrique Chaney, who was voted his team’s defensive player of the game with his eight tackles and two second-half interceptions. “Our defense was nasty tonight.”

The East would take a 14-7 lead on Browning’s second 1-yard touchdown run of the night, this one with 31 seconds left in the first half. Browning was named the East’s player of the game on offense.

After the West forced an East punt on its first drive of the second half, the West got to within a point when Graves came back to catch Paul’s long pass. Graves had to go low for the ball, but kept on his feet and then outran the defense for a 52-yard touchdown.

Dan Wagner of Battle Ground sniffed out a fake punt on East’s next possession, stopping the play cold to give the West ideal field position.

Seven plays later, Paul found Graves again, this time on a 17-yard scoring pass to make it 19-14 late in the third quarter.

The East responded with a drive into the West red zone, but then Chaney grabbed a tipped ball for his first interception and returned it 53 yards to stop the threat. It was the first of three consecutive turnovers on three plays for the East offense.

Columbia River’s Jeremy Newton stripped an East ball carrier after a long gain and recovered the fumble. That set up a 15-play drive for the West that killed time and added three points to the cushion when Skvyiew’s Nick Phillips was true on a 27-yard field goal to make it 22-14 with 3:56 left.

Chaney would get his second interception on the East’s next play from scrimmage.

The East would get the ball back one final time but did not threaten to score.

Then it was time for victory formation for the West, something that did not look like it was going to happen after the first quarter.

The final three quarters belonged to the West, a classic couple of hours for those all-stars.

Note: For video highlights of this game, go to gshlfootball.com.

WEST 22, EAST 14

East 7 7 0 0—14

West 0 7 12 3—22

First quarter

E — Zak Browning 1 run (Janos Camacho kick)

Second quarter

W — Kevin Cotter 48 pass from Kimothy King (Nick Phillips kick)

E — Browning 1 run (Camacho kick)

Third quarter

W — Karl Graves 52 pass from Chris Paul (kick blocked)

W — Graves 17 pass from Paul (kick failed)

Fourth quarter

W — Nick Phillips 27 FG

Leaders

Rushing—East: Browning 25-90, Zach Castro 1-19, Logan Grindy 2-14. West: Willie Fujioka 6-20, Ryan Kulla 9-16, Ingo Arrozal 10-14.

Passing—East: Castro 7-9-1-93, Grindy 7-16-1-53. West: Paul 10-17-0-146, King 1-1-0-48.

Receiving—East: Miguel Salamanca 4-74, Jordan Newman 2-19 Kyle Ervin 1-18, Dylan Rabinowitz 3-17, Qwontae Wallace 1-12, Browning 1-5, Nehemiah Beavers 1-4, Conner Perry 1-(-3). West: Graves 5-115, Cotter 2-55, Nohi Brede 1-11, Kulla 1-7, Fujioka 1-7, Arrozal 1-(-1).