Clutching the East MVP trophy as he walked off the field at Hummer Sports Park following the 47th annual Kansas Shrine Bowl, Kamble Haverkamp would have gladly traded the hardware for a victory.
But even in defeat, the Centralia All-Stater knew he had nothing to hang his head about.
"I’m just proud of my team for going out there and competing," Haverkamp said. "We showed we could hold our own and did just that. (The West) had a couple big plays there, including the one that won the game, but I’m proud of these guys I played with."
Led by Haverkamp, a host of Topeka standouts and some surrounding area stars, the East defense buckled down early and late and gave the East a shot at a come-from-behind win. In all, the East held the West to just 228 total yards — 114 in each half — and came up with one big stop after another after falling behind 14-3 early in the third quarter.
But in the end, the West defense was just a little better, shutting out the East offense three different times after having first downs inside the West 10. The last of those stands came late in the fourth quarter, preserving the West’s 14-9 victory.
Led by the foursome of Judson Wiltfong (Norton), Keaton Robertson (Maize), Hunter Yager (Scott City) and Tyler Dorsey (Derby), the West defensive from dominated, holding the East to 188 total yards and recording six sacks.
"We only had four defensive linemen," West coach Tommy Beason said. "We had a three front and rotated in and those dudes brought it all night."
The East’s defensive front was nearly as good. City stars Andrew Schmidtlein (Hayden) and Timirance Adams (Shawnee Heights) teamed with Kauli Saili (Jefferson West) and Kody Davoren (Rossville) to almost completely shut down the West running game. The West finished with 99 net yards, 44 of it coming on a touchdown run by Dalton Miller (Great Bend) to open the second half.
Despite being hampered by an ankle injury in the second half, Adams led the East with eight tackles, while Schmidtlein added six. Each had 1.5 tackles for loss and were in on sacks.
"Obviously we didn’t play well enough to win, but I was just really proud of everybody whether it was first group or second group," Adams said. "We had depth and it showed. Our safeties played great, our corners player great, our D-line played really great and our linebackers were great. It was a good team effort."
Bryce Uphaus (Nemaha Central) had a big second half, with five of his seven tackles coming after halftime. While Saili was credited with only two tackles, he plugged the middle throughout the game and was a force.
Following Miller’s big touchdown run that capped an 80-yard drive, the East defense forced the West into three straight three-and-outs and a net of four total yards.
"All those young men come from programs that are taught to play hard and play the game the right way," East coach Steve Buhler said. "It shows because when you play the game the right way, with character and effort and persistence, you’re going to be in the ball game and that’s what happened.
"Our defense was lights out. Coach (Jason) Swift, this is the second time I’ve coached in the game with him and both times he’s the defensive coordinator and both times we’ve held the West to 13-14, points. He did a fantastic job."
Haverkamp, meanwhile, set the tone with a dominating first half from his corner position. On the West’s second possession of the game, he broke perfectly on a pass to the flat and picked it off, setting up a field goal that gave the East an early 3-0 lead.
Later in the half, he came up with another interception of West quarterback Jackson Kavanagh (Salina Central) that led to another field goal attempt, this one missed.
Haverkamp also had three tackles and a pass break up, while also punting six times for an average of 40.3 yards per punt, including two of 50 or more yards.
It was a good jump start to his bid this fall to walk on at Kansas State.
"It’s a big honor (to win MVP), and I just thank God that I got to play in this," Haverkamp said. "I got to show what I could do and I showed out that I could play with these big dogs out here. Hopefully I can prove I can play at the next level, as well."