BAKER CITY -- The East dominated all phases of the game Saturday in steamrolling the West 48-6 in the 52nd-annual East-West Shrine All-Star Football Game.
The East, which holds a 26-23-3 overall lead in the series, amassed 439 yards while holding the West to 187 in the game played at Bulldog Memorial Stadium. Team unity was a major key to the win, according to several East players.
Pagnotta, an Illinois Valley graduate who will try to earn a spot on the Colorado State University team this fall, led the East offense with 150 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.
The East defense played like a pride of lions zeroing in on a wildebeest. They limited the West ground attack to just 62 yards on 33 carries.
It didn't take the East defense long to make its presence felt. On the West's third play of the game, the East's Todd Baxter leveled West receiver Tim Kirsch after Kirsch had caught a 14-yard pass from West quarterback Nate McBride. Kirsch fumbled, and the East's Ricky Howe recovered on the West 32.
The East then needed just six plays to put the ball into the end zone. Pagnotta did the honors on a 1-yard burst off right tackle with 10:23 left in the opening period. The conversion kick failed, leaving the East up 6-0. Then, early in the second period, the East culminated a 7-play, 56-yard drive when Trent Holcomb connected with receiver Tye Hiatt on a 33-yard scoring pass. Holcomb lofted the pass toward the left sideline, and Hiatt, behind the West defenders, hauled it in near the goal line. The conversion kick was again wide, giving the East a 12-0 cushion.
The West scored its only touchdown on its next series, thanks in part to the arm and legs of McBride. McBride connected for 17 yards with Dom Hindman, and ran for 13 yards on an end sweep to move the ball to the East 22. A personal foul on the East for tackling McBride out of bounds moved the ball to the 11. Four running plays pushed the ball into the end zone with Craig O'Meara scoring from a yard out. The PAT, failed leaving the West down 12-6.
The East then erupted for 16 unanswered points in the final 9:15 of the half. Following the kickoff, the East marched 75 yards on seven plays for another touchdown. Pagnotta chewed up two major chunks of turf, breaking two tackles on a 33-yard gallop, then using some high-stepping action up the middle for 13 more yards.
Quarterback Chuy Elguezabal then found receiver Collin Cram-Watkins on a 7-yard TD aerial for an 18-6 East lead. The East's Matt Buche, the Class 2A defensive player of the year, recovered a fumble on the West's first play after the kickoff giving the East possession on the West 25. But the East appeared to be denied when the West line rose up and stopped Pagnotta inches short of the goal line on a fourth-and-one situation.
Three plays later, the East scored a safety to take a 20-6 lead. On the play, McBride was pressured in the end zone and fumbled the ball. The West's Greg Pope picked up the fumble but was leveled by Colby Weedman for the safety. Then, after the West had to kick off to the East, Buche's right arm led to the next touchdown.
Buche, who finished the game completing all five of his pass attempts, was 4-for-4 through the air while engineering a 59-yard drive. Two of those passes went to speedster Tyler Coleman, who will play for Eastern Washington University this fall. The scoring toss of 13 yards went to Hiatt over the middle between two defenders. On the conversion, Hiatt took a high snap, rolled right and found a sliding Jake Lacey in the end zone for the two-point PAT. The East led 28-6 at halftime.
The East boosted its lead to 35-6 on the first series of the second half, thanks to Pagnotta's legs. Pagnotta had shorter runs of 12 and seven yards on the 74-yard drive. But, it was a 40-yard burst on which he broke no less than two tackles that found paydirt.
The East tallied two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Baxter got the first score on a 6-yard run after lining up at tailback. Baxter received the handoff near the center of the field, then broke to his left and scooted off left tackle, dragging a couple of defenders into the end zone with him. Howe then capped the East dominance when he took a West punt on his own 45, circled, then broke across the field for a 55-yard punt return.