The East rolled, and it was never in question. Here’s the breakdown:
- Sweet Jesus, Sebastian Peiffer. Way to go out, young man. A one-man wrecking ball in the middle, he breathed life into an East offense that was off to a sluggish start in the first half. The persona of the Gladstone community and football program, toughness, grit, and persistence, were on full display with every handoff, every broken tackle, and every lowering of his pads. It was an absolute showcase in downhill running. If you’re looking for a Shrine Game MVP, Peiffer takes home the trophy.
- Don’t discredit the rest of the team. Tristan Lee picked up right where he left off running the Veer, and Jayden Wilson wasn’t half bad running it himself. Cole Brosterhous dominated the West secondary, Marcus Fullbright got the edge on the pitch more than once, and Joe Northcutt, when not crashing down the West defense, was spectacular running routes downfield. It was a well-rounded, truly balanced attack orchestrated by Vic Lease. Well done.
- The East defense was dominant in every sense. The West never got in a rhythm offensively through the air or on the ground. Jaxon Rozewski was never completely comfortable in the pocket, their plethora of lengthy receivers, including Josh Wart, never got into a good pitch-and-catch groove, and there were sparse, if any, lanes on any given run play. None of this was necessarily due to any lack in the West’s talent or preperation, but it just underscores the overwhelming force the East defense presented.
- Keenan Graham’s injury, presumed to be a broken collarbone, could’ve changed things for the West defensively. It might not have stopped Peiffer directly, but putting a more solid cap on the keep/pitch option in the Veer certainly would’ve helped. In the end, we’ll never know.
- The Mazama and Heppner boys showed up and showed off. We mentioned Lee, Brosterhous, and Wilson, but Jackson Lehman and Dom Hankins also controlled the West at the line of scrimmage. Somewhere in Heppner, Greg Grant has a big grin on his face, knowing his boys just played a huge part in taking down much larger schools one last time.
The 68th annual East-West Shrine game, as we alluded to in our preview, did bring closure more widely than in past years. The closure of high school careers, the raising of money for a fantastic cause, the pageantry and grandiose of one of Oregon’s greatest traditions … it was all there. But, for the first time since the last buzzer of the 2020 3A state tournament in Coos Bay, the tension seemed to be lifted. The holding of one’s breath as to how, or if, the next game would happen wasn’t there. The fluidity and constant questioning that was customary through the last year and a half … seemed to be nonexistent. For the first time in a long time, there were no masks required, no social distancing guidelines, and no temperature checks. It was just a couple hundred strangers becoming best friends for two-and-a-half hours for a great cause.
In addition to its normal importance, its normal functions … this Shrine Game brought with it, hopefully, closure to COVID’s grip on high school athletics, and a chance to finally exhale. Perhaps that’s overly hopeful, but to the couple hundred in attendance, it felt like 2019 again.
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