By KLINT SPILLER
Special to The Telegram
BELOIT — South Gray running back Coulter Croft has a nose for the end zone.
He had limited touches, but when the ball was handed to him at the 8-Man Division I All-Star Game on Saturday in Beloit, he took advantage of it.
Croft finished with 79 yards and two touchdowns on just three carries, helping the West win 36-0 against the East.
"You never expect it, but that's your goal to end up in the end zone every time you touch the ball," Croft said. "I just run as hard as I can and hope for the best."
On the other side of the ball, his South Gray teammate, defensive lineman Joe Carter, helped anchor a defense that preserved a shutout for just the fourth time since the All-Star games began in 1986.
It was the first shutout in an 8-Man All-Star game in either division since 2004, when the East team defeated the West 20-0 in Division I.
It also was the biggest blowout for either division since 2002 when the West won 61-18 in Division I.
Carter finished with three solo tackles, five assists and three sacks.
He said it was a good end to a good week.
"It has been fun," he said. "It has been a pretty good experience. I'd do it again."
The Division I West team now is 8-4 in the all-time series and has won four straight.
Croft punched in the opening touchdown from one yard out to give the West its first lead with seven minutes and 53 seconds remaining the second quarter.
Macksville quarterback Seth Filbert extended the the lead in the third quarter with a touchdown pass to Lincoln tight end Wyatt Schroeder.
On the East's next possession, the West's defense enveloped them and pushed them back, eventually causing a safety when Central Burden quarterback Bo Savage was called for intentional grounding in the end zone.
On the West's next possession, Filbert again connected with Schroeder on a slant for a 10-yard touchdown pass. After the 2-point conversion, the West led 24-0 heading into the fourth quarter.
Croft added another in the fourth quarter, breaking several tackles to go 74 yards for the score.
"It felt great. It was in the All-Star game, and I had a big run," Croft said. "I just felt like I was doing it like I had all year."
Kiowa County quarterback Ross Binford added the final points in the fourth with a 1-yard run with 1:33 remaining.
In the Division II game, the West didn't fare as well, losing 52-24, but southwest Kansas students provided some of the West's best plays.
Moscow wide receiver Osvaldo Granillo broke the opening kickoff 68 yards for a touchdown. That was the last time the East kicked anywhere near him.
"It was a great adrenaline rush," he said. "I was hoping they would keep on kicking it to me, but coach said they wouldn't."
Granillo caught one pass for nine yards, but he was mostly featured in the backfield, carrying the ball eight times for 29 yards.
Dighton running back Guy Fullmer scored the only other touchdowns for the West, running it from three yards out in the second quarter and 26 yards out in the fourth quarter.
Fullmer also led the squad in rushing with 66 yards.
The West actually led 16-0 in the second quarter, but the East scored touchdowns on its next five possessions. By the start of the fourth quarter, the East had built a 46-16 lead.
Fullmer broke a 26-yard run for a score, and after the successful 2-point conversion, the West had closed the lead to 22 points. However, the East responded with another touchdown on its next possession.
Granillo said the East's size was difficult to deal with. The East had 13 players at 6 feet or higher and five who were 6-4 or taller.
"Their line was huge, and they had huge linebackers," he said. "We had speed and we would bounce it out to the outside, but they were so big they would just throw us around."
For the East, Baileyville B&B's trio of stars dominated the day.
East quarterback Eric Huerter of Baileyville threw for 86 yards and had four touchdowns. Fullback Cody Heiman ran for 73 yards and caught a 17-yard pass for a touchdown, and Mitch Engelken carried the ball 18 times for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
Granillo said the most enjoyable aspect of the All-Star Games was interacting with some of the state's best 8-man players in the week leading up to the game.
"The game was fun, but getting to meet everybody, hanging out and all the fun stuff that we got to do was the best part," he said.