Irby powers East win
FOSTORIA – For Jason Zeigler and others from Sandusky Perkins, the effort and result were nothing new. After all, Dale Irby spent the last four year as one of theirs.
Saturday, everyone else got a glimpse.
The Ashland University-bound phenom scored three times on offense, got the go-ahead TD on a kickoff return with less than two minutes to play and iced a 36-32 victory for the East with an interception at his own 5-yard line at the 31st annual Fostoria Athletic Boosters East-West All-Star Game.
“Big players make big plays. Gamers make plays and tonight, Dale sure did that at the end,” Zeigler said after coaching the East to the win.
“We saw it every week. We’d see it in practice, we’d see it Friday nights. The kid’s just a special football player,” he said of Irby.
Irby earned the praise.
His 34-yard sweep around right end helped the East go up 7-0 with 9:58 left in the first quarter.
Irby later hauled in two TD passes from Columbian’s Donovan Walker on fourth-down plays, with the first covering 20 yards with just under a minute left in the first half and the second going for 21 yards at the 4:40 mark of the third period.
That last score gave the East a 30-6 lead, but the West roared back with TDs on its next four possessions.
Liberty-Benton’s Chase Cook got that going with a diving catch of a 32-yard pass by Pandora-Gilboa quarterback Seth Schmenk with 3:13 to go in the third.
Schmenk capped an 80-yard drive with a 41-yard TD strike to Lima Shawnee’s Justin Fullom with 11:40 left to play. Schmenk then hit Ada’s Clay Dysert for the conversion pass to cut the deficit to 30-20.
Lima Senior’s Andrew Gibson finished off the next drive with a punishing 6-yard plunge to make it 30-26 with 7:48 to go.
Dysert gave the West its only lead with 2:09 to play, leaping in from 2 yards out to put the West up 32-30.
“I was telling them all night to relax and be athletes. Once they finally did, they were making plays and things started to turn our way,” said Van Buren coach Kevin Shoup, who guided the West.
“Apparently, it seems that once they relaxed … they did exactly what I wanted and made plays,” he said. “Came up a little short on the kickoff return, though.”
That’s because of Irby.
He scooped up a squib kick in full stride at the 25, cut to his right in traffic and picked up a series of blocks en route to the go-ahead score.
“I was thinking ‘I hope they kick the ball to Dale,’ and they sure did. But I knew our kids were still focused at that time,” Zeigler said. “[The West] made a big play and I had a great feeling that one of our seniors our team was going to make a play. If it wouldn’t have been Dale, it would have been somebody else.
“There were some great blocks. You’ve got to give credit to those guys up front, a couple of those guys made some great, great, great blocks,” he said. “There were a lot of guys, it wasn’t just Dale. Now, Dale’s a fast kid, Dale made a couple nice plays, but I think if you ask Dale, there was a lot of intangibles that went into that and throughout the game.”
Still, the West rallied, using a 24-yard Schmenk pass to Vanlue’s Nick Hagerty to reach the East 37, but Irby ended the threat two snaps later with an interception with 34 seconds to play on his way to claiming the East’s Tommy Latham MVP award.
Offensively, he finished with five rushes for 39 yards, four catches for 88 yards and a 14-yard pass to Walker.
The East’s other scores came in the third quarter. Garret MacFarland of Perkins turned a one-handed catch of a Walker pass on an out pattern into a 58-yard TD, and a safety when Cook corralled a bad snap on fourth down and booted the ball out of the end zone.
Hagerty had the West’s other touchdown, hauling in a 4-yard toss from Schmenk early in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 7-6.
Walker ended 5 for 11 for 124 yards passing for the East.
Schmenk earned the West’s Andy Bish MVP award by ending 22 for 38 for 286 yards, hitting on 12 passes in a row during the second-half comeback. He also ran 18 times for 68 yards.
Cook caught seven passes for 110 yards, and Gibson had 16 carries for 73 yards.
“It was just athletes making plays,” Shoup said. “They had some kids making some one-handed catches and tipped passes. It was fun to watch. That kid who returned the kick, he’s a stud athlete; fastest kid on the field.
“We had a receiver make a couple diving catches. Just fun to watch the athleticism,” he said. “I just kept telling the kids they’re good athletes and that’s why they’re here, so trust their athleticism and make plays.”