By Steve Lee
LAND O’LAKES — Forget a tie, the West wanted the win and got a two-point conversion in Friday night’s Pasco County Football All-star game at Sunlake. That 22-21 lead, however, did not hold up as the East mounted a late drive to score the game-winner with 17 seconds left in a 29-22 thriller.
“By far this was the most exciting one — to watch it go back and forth,” Wesley Chapel coach Tony Egan said of the fourth annual all-star game for seniors.
With less than four minutes left in the game River Ridge quarterback D.J. Mann completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Hudson’s Dominick Rutigliano. Mann got the conversion on a bootleg just inside the left pylon for 22-21 lead, the first of the game for the West.
But Land O’Lakes’ Kyle Levias scored on a 4-yard run with 17 second left and Zephyrhills’ Doug Crawford hooked up with Bulldog teammate Ja’quan Sheppard for the two-point conversion.
The West had one last chance, but Zephyrhills Christian’s Eugene Davis intercepted Mann as time expired to give the East back-to-back victories and a 3-1 lead in a series staged by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
The teams traded touchdowns in the first half with Crawford scoring on a 1-yard plunge into the end zone and Mitchell’s Kym-mani King returning a 48-yard field goal attempt by Land O’Lakes’ Collin Corrao 102 yards for the longest touchdown in series history.
The East took a 21-7 lead in the third quarter as Crawford connected with Zephyrhills teammate Tyreese Wigfall for a 6-yard touchdown and Sheppard returned a punt 50 yards for another score.
Mann pulled the West closer with a 7-yard scoring run late in the third to set the stage for the thrilling final minutes.
Crawford finished with 86 passing yards to go with his two touchdowns (one rushing, one passing) and the conversion pass to lead the East. Zephyrhills’ Christian’s Javion Hanner chipped in with 98 rushing yards. Leading the West was Mann, who threw for 73 yards, and River Ridge’s Cameron Green, who gained 91 yards on 12 carries.