Things didn't turn out the way that they had planned, but the East-West Shrine game was still a good experience for three members of the Crook County High School football program who participated.
"The scoreboard at the end of the game did not come out the way we wanted, but the experiences and relationships everyone built will last a lifetime," said CCHS head football coach Ryan Cochran, who was an assistant coach for the East team. "The game was just an amazing experience."
Cochran said that he was excited to have the privilege to coach two of his former players one final time. He added that those players, lineman Caleb Parrott and wide receiver Dominic Langley, both played a significant part for the East squad.
"I was extremely proud of both Caleb and Dominic over the week," he said. "They became leaders on and off the field to an extremely talented East squad. They both worked incredibly hard during their week of doubles in some extremely hot conditions and both earned starting positions."
Langley went on to lead the East team in receptions with five catches for 70 yards.
Meanwhile, Parrott, who was expected to be a major force on both the offensive and defensive line for the East team, suffered a shoulder injury on the third play of the game and consequently didn't play as much as he'd hoped.
"It was extremely disappointing," Parrott said of the injury. "I thought I had a really good week of practice and I was really pumped for the game."
The West team took advantage of six East turnovers to run away with the contest, defeating the East team 43-10, in the game held Saturday, Aug. 3 in Baker City.
The West opened the scoring in the first quarter as Banks quarterback Hayden Vandehey hit Banks receiver Blake Markham for a 27-yard touchdown late in the first quarter.
Culver's Victor Torres kicked the extra point and the West led 7-0.
Markham finished with nine catches for 107 yards, while Vandehey completed 20 of 34 passes for four touchdowns and 319 total yards.
The West moved the ball at will for most of the game, finishing with 456 yards of total offense.
Taking advantage of East miscues, the West exploded for three touchdowns in the second quarter as they took a 30-0 lead into the half.
Neither team was able to score in the third period, before the East finally rallied early in the fourth quarter.
A blocked punt in the end zone led to a safety, then after the ensuing kick, the East scored their lone touchdown four plays later. A two-point conversion made the score 30-10 and it looked briefly like the East still had life.
However, Vandehey connected for two more touchdowns in the quarter, hitting Markahm and Rainier's Joey Tripp, as the West decisively put the game away.
Although he would like to have played more and to have been on the winning team, Parrott said that the game was still a good experience.
Players toured the Portland Shriners Children's Hospital on the final weekend of July, then spent a week in La Grande practicing before the Saturday game.
Both Parrott and Cochran said that touring the hospital was a good experience, while Langley was unavailable for comment.
"I was lucky enough to play in the North-South Shrine game 24 years ago," Cochran said. "For me to come full circle and be able to coach in it has always been a bucket list item for me. The Shriners Organization is an amazing group that does so much good for children in need. The all-star game is a great experience but the true winner is the Shriners Hospital. Our tour through the hospital opened everyone's eyes to the amazing work they do. I wish everyone could have that experience. It changed my life 24 years ago and it did the same last week. Proud to be a part of it."
Parrott also said that visiting the Shriners Hospital was memorable.
"The stuff they do there is pretty amazing," he said. "It definitely had a big impact on all of us and it was a good thing to know what we were playing for and where the money that was raised was going."
Parrott added that the week of practice in La Grande was also memorable.
"It was a lot of guys coming together and we got pretty close," he said. "It was a fun time and a good experience. It was pretty cool to see. All of us had an amazing understanding of the game and the stuff that we could get done in one week was pretty amazing."
Parrott also said that it was interesting to see the top players from Class 1A through 4A all in one place working together for a common goal.
Cochran was also pleased with the camaraderie that he saw from the players.
"I was extremely excited to see how close all of the East players bonded and became a team," he said. "They gelled so quickly and truly became a tight-knit group. They did everything together for nine days."
Cochran added that he was especially pleased with the work ethic and performance he saw from both Parrott and Langley.
"Parrott's performance all week earned him captain honors," Cochran said. "I am incredibly blessed to be able to coach these two Cowboys one more time. They both have amazing futures ahead of them."
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