Kaleb Harris sure didn't look like a rookie quarterback.
Harris, a high school tailback, passed for 136 yards and ran for 100 more as the East stuffed the West, 34-7, in the Native American All-Star Football Game on Saturday night at Haskell Stadium.
"He didn't play quarterback in the first couple of practices," East coach Antwain Jimmerson said of Harris, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound product of Tahlequah, Okla., Sequoia High. "Then on the third day I saw him throwing in practice."
If Jimmerson hadn't switched Harris to QB, Haskell Indian Nations University coach Eric Brock might have suggested it. Harris is headed to HINU this fall, and Brock predicts Harris will give incumbent senior quarterback Pete Hahn a battle.
"I think it should be good competition," Brock said.
Harris carried the ball 16 times for 100 yards, and he completed seven of 14 passes for 136 yards. His 236 yards of total offense included a two-yard touchdown plunge and a 22-yard TD pass to Tsyoslake House -- one of three fourth-quarter East scores that blew the game open.
The West led 7-6 at halftime, but the East dominated the second half.
"We came out for the second half, and I think we were more physical up front," Harris said. "Our offensive line was great. I couldn't have done anything without them."
Harris was an overwhelming choice as the game's most outstanding performer, but he was more thrilled to play on the first East team to win the all-star game. The West had won the first two.
"It's a tremendous honor because the West has dominated," Harris said. "We felt all along we had the upper edge."
As impressive as Harris was on offense, he also made what West coach Carl Madison felt was the game's key defensive play. With the West leading 7-0 and threatening on the East 10-yard line early in the second quarter, Harris -- who saw limited duty in the secondary -- picked off a Michael Watson pass in the end zone and brought it out to the 11-yard line.
The West never threatened again.
"That was the turning point in the game," Madison said. "Our quarterback (Watson) talked me into running it. I shouldn't have listened to him."
Yet Harris inflicted much more damage on the West while playing offense. He even carried a couple of times out of the tailback position.
"He made plays and that's what you've got to do," Madison said.
East coach Jimmerson liked the way everyone on his 28-man roster made plays on the warm, muggy night.
"We were able to play at a high level for four quarters," said Jimmerson, head coach at Tulsa, Okla., Washington High. "The first half was like a standoff, but we practiced hard and our conditioning paid off. The kids just teed off and played hard."
Jimmerson also knocked a small monkey off his back. This was the fourth time he had coached in an all-star game, but the first time he had ever won one.
"I was 0-3, but I didn't tell the kids before the game," Jimmerson said. "I didn't want them to think about that."
While Harris was running and passing, the East defense blunted the West time after time. Linebacker Daniel Hawkins, who played for Jimmerson in high school, was the ringleader with two sacks, a pass deflection and a fumble recovery.
"When we got down early me and the other defensive guys said we had to step it up," Hawkins said. "We just had to do it."
Hawkins' was named the West's top defender. Hunter Smith, a wide receiver from Colcord, Okla., earned the East offensive award. Smith caught three passes for 65 yards.
Smith and Hawkins, incidentally, both have said they plan to enroll at HINU next month. In fact, 14 members of the East squad have told Brock they're coming.
Harris, for one, says he can't wait to return to Lawrence in August.
"I'm looking forward to it," said the tailback-turned-all-star quarterback. "It's going to be lots of fun. We've already formed bonds this week."
Brenden Bahyesva, a wide receiver from Sells, Ariz., was named the West's best offensive player. Bahyesva caught three passes for 51 yards. Linebacker Randy Cozad of Anadarko, Okla., was tapped as the West's top defender.