By Ryan Atkinson
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Officially, Webb City’s Landon Zerkel was the offensive Most Valuable Player for the West squad in Saturday night’s Sertoma Grin Iron Classic.
In reality, there were a handful of players who could easily have grabbed the award.
Three West quarterbacks combined to throw for 284 yards, four receivers had at least three catches each and the West squad scored 19 points in a decisive second quarter to grab a 25-13 win over the East at Missouri State University’s Plaster Stadium.
“We knew we had a chance to move the ball well,” said Lockwood’s Logan Cornish, one of the West’s quarterbacks. “That spread offense takes some getting used to, but toward the end of the week in practice, we all started clicking so it turned out real well.”
Cornish was one of the offensive stars for the West, completing six of his eight passes for 105 yards. His 13-yard first-quarter touchdown strike to Zerkel started the West’s run of 25 unanswered points. Cornish also rushed two times for eight yards and kicked an extra point.
“I’m happy with how I played,” Cornish said. “And as a team, we played really well, so it was a fun time.”
Zerkel, who was the Globe’s all-area player of the year for football and the co-player of the year for basketball, had another stellar performance. He caught six passes for 85 yards, including five catches for 70 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
“It’s just fun to play in a system like this,” said Zerkel, who will play for Missouri Southern this fall. “You could tell we had something exciting going on during practice. With Coach (Doug) Buckmaster and all the great players on the team, we knew we could score some points.”
Joplin quarterback Cory Rector, another of the West’s top offensive performers, wasn’t so sure.
“Honestly, I though this was going to be a defensive battle,” said Rector, a Central Methodist signee. “I knew we had a lot of talent offensively, but I thought the defenses would control the game.”
That definitely wasn’t the case in the first half.
After the East took a 7-0 lead on a 27-yard pass from Cabool’s Matt Jordan to Branson’s Chris Westfall -- the East’s offensive MVP -- the West grabbed control.
The Cornish-to-Zerkel score cut the lead to 7-6 before Republic’s Mitch McHenry hooked up with Carthage’s Stephen Poston -- another Missouri Southern signee -- for a 25-yard scoring strike with 10:36 left in the second quarter.
Joplin’s Devon Fowler -- who rushed 21 times for 63 yards -- extended the West lead with a one-yard plunge that was set up by Rector’s 45-yard pass to former Joplin teammate Logan Simon.
The West later drove 71 yards in the final 56 seconds of the first half and extended its lead to 25-7 when Rector found Fowler from 14 yards out. The drive was highlighted by Cornish’s 38-yard pass to Zerkel.
“After our first drive when we went three-and-out, we played well,” Rector said. “Coach ‘Buck’ called the right plays and we executed at the right time.”
The East defense finally found a way to slow down the West in the second half, keeping it out of the end zone for the final 24 minutes.
The West defense, however, allowed just one score — Aaron Charleson’s 70-yard bomb to Westfall on a trick play.
East Newton’s David Adams was voted the West’s defensive MVP while Cabool’s Doug Walls earned the award for the East.
By Ryan Atkinson