West survives All-Star Game 14-13

By Cameron Gilmore

Special to the Sun-Gazette

visalia- After a back-and-forth battle between some of the valleys brightest football stars, it was only fitting a game celebrating its 50th Anniversary should come down to the final seconds.

What had been an apparent touchdown by the East squad was waved off due to a penalty. That left the East confused and frustrated as they watched the West All-Stars take the 50th playing of the Tulare-Kings County All-Star game Saturday, June, 24 at Groppetti Automotive Visalia Community Stadium

“It was hard but like I said, it was just fun. It went the way it did, you can’t ask for anything more, or any less”, said Farmersville’s Jeremiah Galaviz after his acrobatic run into the end zone was waved off due to a penalty.

The East got to work on their final drive after Keon Jefferson, of Mission Oak, march into the end zone to give the West the lead for good 14-13. With 2:47 remaining in the game Galaviz’s drive began rocky with an incompletion and a sack to bring up third and long. That’s when he completed a crucial pass to Jose Cisneros to gain a first down. Moments later the pair hooked up again, with Cisneros finding room in a zone to gain another first down. Then Galaviz scrambled down to the three to set up first-and-goal. The East team was whistled for an illegal procedure that pushed them back five yards before Galaviz leaping and twisting body appeared to have scored the go-ahead touchdown.

But a penalty nullified the touchdown and before the East could get aligned for another chance, time had run out. It was a sequence of events that left east head coach Jeromy Blackwell puzzled.

“There had not been a hold called all game until the last five seconds of the football game. I thought it was odd-timing”, admitted Blackwell postgame.

In his final performance, Galaviz showed the same grit and determination he had all season long. He overcame pressure, sacks and a lost fumble on a snap to lead his team. He showcased his arm strength and accuracy with a 40-yard completion, showing why he took home several accolades this year such as ESL offensive player of the year while putting up 2,853 passing yards and 31 touchdowns to lead all ESL passers.

“Makes you think how you started, why you started. Being able to finish with this group of guys. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” said Galaviz.

Coach Blackwell also had high praise for the College of the Sequoias-bound Galaviz.

“He is a great kid. A strong leader. Very vocal and he has charisma,” said Blackwell.

Tied at 7-7 to begin the fourth quarter, another league leader showed his skills for the East. Connor Paden led the Central Sequoia League (CSL) this past year in rushing yardage on his way to offensive player of the year. Paden’s longest run entering the game was 35 yards. That is before he burst into the open field and outran everyone for a 60-yard touchdown to put the East up 13-7 following a missed extra-point.

“Running inside is all about timing. Sometimes he wanted to bounce it out to early. He got that ball and he took off and made a lot of that happen,” said Blackwell.

Paden was named the East team’s Most valuable player (MVP) for his performance.

Paden has plans to continue playing football at Ventura College.

Following Paden’s highlight-reel moment, the West All-Stars methodically marched down the field, chewing over 8 minutes off the clock before Johnson muscled his way in from 1 yard away to give the West a 14-13 lead they would not relinquish.

The West All-Stars also struck first thanks to a mistake by the East. After recovering a high snap deep in East territory, the West All-Stars cashed in when Andrew Aguilar of Tulare Western strode into the end zone for a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Mistakes were a large part of the first half for the East, as Blackwell noted.

“Officially I counted, that game could have been 21-0 at halftime. We botched a snap, a fumbled exchange, somebody from our sideline called for a fair catch on our own 2”, he said after.

None of those issues prevented Robert Jimenez from electrifying the crowd with his 39-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7 just minutes after watching the West take the initial lead. Neither team could score again before halftime despite the West having their own turnover dilemmas with a pair of fumbles, one recovered by Woodlake’s Tell Blanke and one by Strathmore’s Gilbert Acevedo.

While it was a loss for the second straight year coach Blackwell looks beyond the wins and losses.

“Football is special because you only get to do it in pads for a short period of time. Special moment for these guys I’m glad to be a part of it. Football isn’t just a game it’s a way of life for a lot of these guys. That’s why football players always have a very special place.”

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