East Coach Dave Murphy would concede neither team the defensive edge in Saturday's 14th annual Ventura County Lions and Coaches All-Star football game at Larrabee Stadium in Ventura.
But the West turned out to be more stubborn on defense, accounting for the difference in its 10-7 victory over the East. The win boosted the West's edge to 7-5-2 in the series.
West running back Ernie Tupua of Channel Islands was selected the game's most valuable player. He led all rushers with 71 yards. The West had 241 yards in total offense and the East passed for just 63 yards and rushed for 14 yards.
Santa Paula quarterback Joe Gonzales was named the East's top offensive player and Gus Nelinger of Thousand Oaks was named its top defensive player. For the West, Chad Lindsay of Ventura was named the top defensive player and Tupua was the best offensive player and the game's most valuable player.
The low-scoring contest did not surprise Murphy, the Simi Valley High coach. His only expectation was that the game would not resemble another 91-point scoring jamboree like last year's 50-41, East victory.
"You can never tell in an all-star game what will happen," Murphy said before Saturday's game.
Chip Valentine of Ventura put the West ahead, 10-7, with a 24-yard field goal with 11:51 remaining in the final period.
Lou Camarillo from Ventura set up the field goal by recovering an East fumble at the East's 21-yard line late in the third quarter. Seven plays later Valentine kicked the winning field goal.
The East mounted a fourth-quarter drive after recovering a West fumble at its 1-yard line and moved to midfield before Ralph Prieto of Oxnard intercepted a pass from Gonzales with four minutes left in the game.
The West held on after the East relinquished possession to record the victory.
Although defense dominated the night, the game started on an ominous offensive note. The West opened the scoring, stunning the East with a touchdown in the first 40 seconds of the game.
West quarterback Juan Moreno from Oxnard hit wide receiver Mike Russell, also of Oxnard, streaking up the left sideline for a 63-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage. Valentine's conversion kick gave the West a 7-0 lead that it maintained throughout the first half.
The East picked up just 26 yards rushing in the first half on 17 carries. Starter Mike Henry of Camarillo shared quarterback duties with Westlake's Chris Lemieux and Gonzales and completed 4 of 6 passes for 22 yards in the half.
The East struck suddenly to tie the game at the start of the second half. Dave Barrow of Simi Valley took Valentine's kickoff at the 14-yard line, and the 5-11, 175-pound defensive back scampered up the right side for an 86-yard touchdown. Vic Topper's extra-point kick got the East even.