With the East All-Stars scoring nine unanswered points, the West squad was looking for a spark, something to switch up the momentum of the game.
That spark came by way of Rocky River.
Robbie Palgens entered the game and did what he had done so many times for the Pirates throughout the course of his high school career. He started out hot, leading the West to a second quarter touchdown drive that gave it the lead for good in a 32-22 win Friday night in the Cuyahoga County East-West All-Star Game on Tressel Field at George Finnie Stadium.
Trailing 9-7, the West defense held after the East had returned a free kick to the West 26-yard line early in the second quarter. Plagens, the third quarterback to see action for the West, led his team down field and capped off a drive with an 8-yard scoring strike to Marcel Carver of Cleveland Central Catholic.
Damien Russell caught a 2-point conversion pass on the halfback option from St. Edward running back Terrell Bates, and it was 15-9, West, with 4:32 left in the first half.
Plagens, who hit seven of his first 10 pass attempts, drove the West into scoring position one more time before the first half ended. That drive started at the West 27-yard line and reached the East 6-yard line with nine seconds left.
Padua’s Zach Paul, who impressed everyone with his punting and place kicking the entire game, drilled a 22-yard field goal to make it 18-9, West, at the half. But without a doubt it was Plagens who turned the team’s fortunes around after a losing the lead earlier in the game.
The West actually took a 7-0 lead with 3:23 to go in the first quarter on a nifty 29-yard pass play from St. Edward quarterback Kevin Burke to John Marshall receiver Tamaine Chappell. But the East knotted the game at 7-7 on a touchdown pass play of its own with just eight ticks left on the first quarter clock.
With Sam Stretar of Independence at quarterback, the West lost the lead for the first and only time of the game. An errant snap went over Stretar’s head and into the back of the end zone. Stretar alertly knocked the ball out of bounds, giving the East a safety and the 9-7 advantage.
Plagens didn’t see the field again until 3:53 left in the game. But by that time, the West had scored 25 unanswered points to take a 32-9. The East rallied for a touchdown before Plagens re-entered the game, then added another with 2:32 left in the game to account for the final score.
The former Pirate, who will head down to Oxford to play for Miami University, finished out the game completing 12 of 17 passes for 167 yards and one touchdown. His longest pass was a 44-yarder that helped set up the go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter.
The Westshore’s defensive standout for the game was linebacker Nick Williams of Fairview. The Baldwin-Wallace College recruit had four solo tackles and a pair of assisted stops to wind up the team’s third-leading tackler on the night.
Other local players taking the field for the West squad Friday night were Jake Johnston and Connor O’Doherty of Bay, Adam Shick of Lutheran West, Justin Smith of Westlake, Gage Falcone of Fairview, Walter Mitchell of North Olmsted and the Olmsted Falls duo of Jeremy Ortiz and Connor Cantrell.