GRAND FORKS - At 145 pounds, Seth Ewoniuk was the smallest player pound-wise playing in the North Dakota Shrine Bowl's 11-man game.
Nobody made a bigger play than the Belfield High School graduate, however.
Ewoniuk's 64-yard touchdown run pulled the West to within 41-40 with seven minutes, 40 seconds remaining Saturday. Abe Roehrich then converted the 2-point conversion run for the tying and winning points as the West rallied to a 42-41 win at Grand Forks' Alerus Center.
Photos courtesy of Jenna Watson/Grand Forks Herald
A East defender wraps his arm around the leg of a West running back during the 11-man Shrine Bowl on Saturday at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.
"It was my only touch of the game, so I wanted to make the most of it,'' said Ewoniuk, who spent most of his time playing in the West's defensive secondary.
Ewoniuk took a sweep to the right sideline, turned upfield, cut back against the grain and wound up going in for the score on the left sideline. He broke a few high tackles along the way and burst by a few defenders.
"I had great blocking,'' said Ewoniuk, who finished third in the 100-meter dash at last spring's state B track meet. "I got a seam to cut upfield, then another seam to cut back. Then it was off to the races. I have confidence in my speed.''
Said West coach Brad Borkhuis: "We'd been pounding the ball inside, hoping to draw attention to our runs up the middle. We were hoping for 8-10 yards on the sweep; we weren't thinking touchdown when we called it. It was a great run.''
As was Roehrich's conversion. Quarterback Jake Pavek was stopped on a run, but he made a high pitch that Roehrich pulled down with one hand.
"That was the game, for Abe to be able to reach up, catch it and have the strength to get it in,'' Borkhuis said.
The East had two more chances. On fourth-and-one at the West 6-yard line, East quarterback Christian Lunde was stopped short of a first down.
"It was inches,'' Lunde said. "But their (defensive) surge was good. They really got off the ball.''
After the West was forced to punt, the East drove to the 21-yard line. On the game's final play, Nick Erickson's 37-yard attempt at a field goal was straight, but just short of the crossbar.
"I made a 35-yarder in high school,'' Erickson said. "I thought I had the distance when I struck it. I didn't think it would come up short.''
The game was one of offensive fireworks, as the teams combined for 1,013 yards in total offense. Six of the 12 touchdowns covered more than 20 yards.
"It was athletes,'' Lunde said, "everyone making plays.''
The East had 552 yards, led by Lunde's 21-of-36 passing for 269 yards. The top receivers were Loren Bothun (8 receptions for 131 yards, including scoring receptions covering 35 and 46 yards) and Colter Pritchard (5-62). The West was more balanced with 461 yards - 216 passing and 245 rushing - led by Roehrich's 107 yards.
The East scored touchdowns on six of its first seven possessions, taking a 41-18 lead on Lunde's 1-yard run with 8:27 left in the third quarter.
"We knew anything could still happen,'' Borkhuis said. "The offense was so quick for both teams. They were making big plays. We just had to get more disciplined on defense.''
Cody Nelson caught touchdown passes of 44 yards from Stetson Carr and 21 yards from Pavek, setting up Ewoniuk's big score.
"There was a lot of speed in this game,'' East coach Troy Mattern said. "Both teams used it. We dropped a lot of passes in the second half. And the West won the fourth quarter. They made big plays. That (Ewoniuk run) was the biggest one.''