Topeka When East head coach Brooks Barta approached Joe Corcoran about the possibility of playing running back rather than defensive back for the Shrine Bowl, the coach was more interested in Corcoran's blocking abilities.
Well, on Saturday night Corcoran proved he could do more than just block.
The 6-foot, 170-pound standout from Perry-Lecompton rushed for 77 yards and had a touchdown run, a TD reception plus rushed for a two-point conversion to lead the East All-Stars to a 21-13 victory over the West in the 27th annual Shrine Bowl at Washburn University's Moore Bowl.
"I didn't plan on playing that much," said Corcoran, an all-Kaw Valley League performer who gained 1,533 yards last fall while leading the Kaws to a Class 4A playoff berth. "I expected all of us to get about equal playing time."
Corcoran, a Washburn football signee, and Free State High's Jake Lawrence shared the load for the East. The duo combined for 155 of East's 156 rushing yards. Corcoran had a game-high 20 carries, and Lawrence had 12 carries for a game-high 78 yards.
"I think me and Corcoran are both good backs," said Lawrence, a 6-foot-1, 210-pounder headed to Butler County CC. "It's too bad we're not playing together next year."
Late in the first quarter, Lawrence broke loose for a 35-yard gain the longest run of the game on second-and-14 from West's 44-yard line to set up East's first score. Seven plays later, Corcoran burst through the middle for a three-yard TD run.
Said Lawrence of his long run, "It got me going. I was real excited with the whole atmosphere of the Shrine Bowl."
Corcoran gave the East the lead for good with seven seconds left in the first half when Blue Valley North quarterback Jeremy Simmons found Corcoran open in the end zone for a one-yard TD pass. The catch capped a 16-play, 80-yard drive, aided by West's 15-yard penalty for an illegal player downfield on a punt.
Tom Murray, a 6-5, 245-pounder, was Lawrence High's lone representative in the all-star contest. An offensive lineman for LHS last fall, Murray played tight end for the East.
"When I got down there (to camp in Emporia), they made me a tight end and I was happy to do it," said Murray, who will report to Princeton next month. "I did a lot of blocking on the perimeter."
The West was considered the favorite because it boasted eight first-team all-state selections from last fall. Murray and his East teammates weren't intimidated.
"We didn't really buy any of that," Murray said. "It doesn't really matter in a game like this. We worked just as hard or harder than they did. We were confident of our ability coming into this no matter how big or fast the other guys are supposed to be."
Lawrence, the first Firebird to play in the Shrine Bowl, was thrilled the East capped eight days of training camp with a win over the West.
"I hated camp," Lawrence said. "This and St. Louis (to visit children at the Shriners hospital) made it all worth it.
KU freshman injured: Incoming Kansas University freshman Travis Watkins, a 6-4, 285-pound defensive tackle from Derby, injured the Achilles tendon in his left foot on West's second defensive series of the first quarter. He spent the rest of the first half icing the foot and didn't see any more action.
Next year: KSU Stadium in Manhattan will be the site of next year's Shrine Bowl on July 28.