It took a half for the East to figure out its offense, then the East really figured it out Saturday night at the Freedom Bowl Classic.
Mountain View quarterback Lexington Reese threw four second-half touchdowns, leading the East squad to a 28-13 victory over the West in the all-star football game featuring recent graduates from Southwest Washington.
The East trailed 13-0 before Reese and his receivers lit up the West defense. Meanwhile, the East defense kept getting the ball back to the offense, allowing for the comeback.
Reese finished 13 of 23 for 193 yards and four touchdowns, including two TD passes to Mountain View teammate Corey Henderson.
“To be on a team that throws, throws, and throws, and it works, it’s a great feeling,” Reese said. “It made the game fun. It was a weird transition, going from 80 runs a game to 80 passes a game.”
That might have been an exaggeration, but the emotions were true.
Reese was named the MVP of the Classic. Henderson, meanwhile, was the East’s offensive player of the game, catching four passes for 64 yards and the first two touchdowns.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Henderson said. “We didn’t really do that during the season. We knew it was possible, though.”
To be fair, Mountain View has been throwing the ball a lot more in recent years. In fact, the Thunder threw the ball 47 times in Week 1 in 2014. It’s just that the Thunder also are known for having 500-yard rushing games. When things are going that well, no need to throw a lot.
The East needed to air it out in this game.
The East converted three fourth-down plays in its first touchdown drive. The East went 64 yards on 17 plays moments after the West took a 13-0 lead and was looking to take control.
Instead, the East got back in it, with Reese finding Henderson for a 6-yard touchdown on fourth down.
“I love throwing to him,” Reese said. “After that first one, it really clicked with the rest of the team.”
The East defense forced a three-and-out, then there was a bad punt, and two plays later, Reese found Henderson again. This one went for 12 yards to put the East up 14-13 late in the third quarter.
The West drove deep into East territory, but Camas’ A.J. Finley intercepted a pass in the end zone, setting up another long touchdown drive. The East went 84 yards on nine plays, with Reese escaping a pass rush and flipping the ball to Hockinson’s Austin Johnson for an 8-yard TD.
After the West lost the ball on downs, it took two plays for the East to seal the victory, with Reese connecting with Isaiah Ephraim of Camas for a 26-yard touchdown pass.
Hockinson’s Aaron Burns was named the East’s defensive player of the game. The lineman had three tackles-for-loss, including a sack.
“We stuck together, we stuck to the fundamentals, and we just kicked some butt,” Burns said. “It was awesome. Just making all those tackles, helping the team out.”
The West got its touchdowns from athletes of Vancouver Public Schools. Fort Vancouver quarterback Jordan Suell found Columbia River’s Jacob Bystry on a 31-yard scoring strike early in the second quarter. Then Suell went to Nehemiah McDougal of Hudson’s Bay for a 49-yard TD pass on the first drive of the second half.
Bystry was in contention for the game’s MVP with his performance before the East made its comeback. He caught five passes for 130 yards plus he had a long punt return. He was named the West’s offensive star of the game.
Woodland’s Eli Whitmire, who rushed for 113 yards on 16 carries, was just as impressive on defense with three tackles-for-loss, and a couple of “Wow!” hits. He was named the team’s defensive player of the game.
EAST 28, WEST 13
West 0 7 6 0—13
East 0 0 14 14—28
W — Jacob Bystry 31 pass from Jordan Suell (Jordan Marti kick)
W — Nehemiah McDougal 49 pass from Suell (kick failed)
E — Corey Henderson 6 pass from Lexington Reese (Will Warne kick)
E — Henderson 12 pass from Reese (Warne kick)
E — Austin Johnson 8 pass from Reese (Warne kick)
E — Isaiah Ephraim 26 pass from Reese (Warne kick)
RUSHING: West — Eli Whitmire 16-113, Jordan Suell 3-2, Jordan Marti 4-16, Nehemiah McDougal 6-14, Jacob Bystry 1-6, Gabe Evenson 3-(minus 6). East — Tucker Anderson 2-7, Kevin Kirschenbaum 2-12, Corey Henderson 2-(minus 3), Tristan Roseff 1-1; Brandon Campbell 2-11, Jacob Pearrow 2-0, Lexington Reese 5-15, Austin Johnson 10-58.
PASSING: West — Suell 7-17-1-170, Evenson 2-5-0-29; East — Reese 13-23-0-193, Tanner Rabinowitz 3-6-1-24.
RECEIVING: West — Bystry 5-130, McDougal 1-49, David Bishop 2-11, Marti 0-4, Austin Benton 1-5; East — Henderson 4-64, Josh Miler 4-55, Johnson 3-30, Ephraim 1-26, Kyler Riggleman 1-23, Anderson 1-15, Campbell 1-4.