DURHAM — The inaugural CHaD New Hampshire East-West High School Football All-Star Game definitely did not lack playmakers.
Keith Jones, it turns out, coached most of them.
Jones and his Team West standouts started strong and poured it on. In front of 1,500 fans, they moved the chains on offense, dominated on defense, scored 37 first-half points, and crushed Team East, 44-12, Saturday at the University of New Hampshire's Cowell Stadium in a game that benefited Children's Hospital at Dartmouth.
“I thought it was going to be the shootout at the O.K. Corral,” Jones said. “Our kids came to play.”
The time off since Manchester's Turkey Bowl last November didn't hinder Thaddeus “Junior” Brown, months earlier the standout of the 31st annual holiday game.
Manchester Central's receiver torched East's defense. He copped the Bo Dickson MVP trophy thanks to a four-catch, 87-yard, three-touchdown performance.
“They tried putting a safety over the top of me,” Brown said with a wide smile. “It didn't work.”
Brown did all his damage in the first half. His final reception was a 50-yard catch that showed his great hands and breakaway speed.
“What an athlete,” East coach Bill Raycraft said. “Not only his day, but those around him that put him in position to make the plays he did. If I was in the stands, I would've loved it. Unfortunately, I was on the sideline.”
Quarterback Cody Dalton of Manchester Memorial threw a perfect pass to Brown, who exploded down the right seam. Brown burned past Kennett's Michael Lautenschlager and Gilford's Brendon Murphy, extended his arms, and watched the ball find his fingertips.
Brown's last catch capped the final scoring drive of the first half. West led at halftime, 37-6.
Earlier in the half, Brown pulled down a pair of 9-yard TD tosses from Aaron Martin (2-yard rushing TD). Manchester West's signal caller fired the ball where only Brown could catch it. Brown twice leaped over Jake Pleadwell, playing tight coverage in the end zone.
The turnover battle was also a factor. Team East was minus-2 (5-3).
West's all-stars consistently capitalized on first-half miscues. They scored the game's first 23 points off recovered fumbles by Josh Hughes (Trinity of Manchester) and Johnny Bieren (Nashua South), an interception by Jackson King (Merrimack) and a safety.
While East's Pleadwell made the game's first big defensive play — a QB sack of Dalton — King soon celebrated a pick-six.
Merrimack's top talent showed tremendous anticipation, stepped in front of Inter-Lakes-Moultonborough's Tanner Quinney, and raced 19 yards to paydirt. Central's Stephen Grzywacz converted his second of six total extra-point attempts.
King's INT sparked a consistent theme: West's ability on defense to effectively read and quickly react.
Bieren may have been best. His goal-line pressure induced the second-quarter safety. He finished with a team-high 4 1/2 tackles and a game-high three QB sacks for a loss of 15 yards.
Bieren wasn't the only beast along West's defensive line.
Stacking the box with run-stuffers that also included Monadnock's Nick Dragon, Plymouth's Nick Reisert and Newport's Logan Merritt worked to perfection. Defensive back Jared Chandler of Central also showed toughness in the trenches, tallying four solo tackles.
“It spoke for itself,” Reisert said of West's defense. “We did a great job keeping them inside. We wrapped up well and gang-tackled right to the ball. That was clutch.”
It was also necessary.
East boasted a triple threat backfield. Salem's Jerickson Fedrick, and Pinkerton Academy of Derry duo Kevin Davies and Emmitt Smith combined for 4,649 rushing yards and 57 TDs last season.
The trio totaled 99 rushing yards on 24 carries. The first-half totals: a dozen carries for 28 yards.
“They were really good on the perimeter. They took that away and started getting some pressure inside,” said Fedrick, whose six carries produced 13 yards. “They just started off on a really good foot.”
Fedrick briefly ended the barrage, which reached 30 unanswered points. Salem's all-time leading rusher (4,569) returned a kickoff 96 yards for six points.
I-L-M's Conor Donovan and South's Derek Paradis traded short-yardage TDs after halftime.
But the final 30 minutes? They were a formality.
“What an awesome event. This was easy to coach,” Jones said. “And it helps with those kids over there, too. They make you look good.”
Game notes: Team West totaled 530 yards from scrimmage (66 plays) ... Team East totaled 158 yards from scrimmage (41 plays) ... West more than tripled East's rushing yardage, 385-107 ... Chris Chininis (Souhegan of Amherst) led West with 67 rushing yards ... Emmitt Smith (Pinkerton) led East with 62 rushing yards ... East's Donovan totaled a game-high 11 1/2 tackles.