ST. GEORGE If the play on the field and the fan reaction after the game is any indication, the Paradise Bowl could be around for a long time.
Saturday, the inaugural Paradise Bowl was played here at Hanson Stadium with college seniors from Utah, Colorado and other surrounding states taking on seniors from the Pac-10 and other western conferences.
For the record, the West All-Stars rallied from 16 down to win 33-30 over the Utah-Colorado stars in double-overtime. The game was competitive and exciting, but more importantly, it was a chance for many football players to strap on the pads one last time.
"It was wonderful," said Arizona's Anthony Thomas, who played defensive line for the victorious West team. "(Bowl promoter) Dari (Alton) did a great job of putting together an unbelievable bowl experience for us players."
The West team practiced all week in Mesquite, Nev., about 35 miles from St. George, while the UTCO team practiced in St. George. Most of the players brought their own personal fan clubs.
"We came to watch Scott," said Ian McEwen, grandfather of West (and UCLA) quarterback Scott McEwen. "We've all had a great experience here. I know it was great for the kids."
The younger McEwen had plenty of reasons to celebrate. In front of 2,547 fans, he led a furious comeback and earned co-MVP honors with West teammate Derrick Lewis.
McEwen found Lewis six times for 122 yards and two touchdowns all in the fourth quarter. The biggest catch didn't even count in those statistics.
After his second TD catch, Lewis, from San Diego State, snared a McEwen bullet on a slant for a two-point conversion to tie the game at 30-30 with 1:28 to go in regulation.
"Those two got it going," West coach Sark Arslanian said. "We had four quarterbacks and had to use them all, but when it got down to nuttin' time we went with Scott."
With the weather hovering near 50 degrees, the crowd seemed to enjoy the offensive shootout. The two teams combined for nearly 1,100 yards. But it was the defense that took over in overtime.
The UTCO team had the ball first and ended up turning it over on downs after netting minus-15 yards. The West team missed a 37-yard field goal on their possession, forcing a second overtime.
With the first possession in the second OT, the West settled for a 23-yard field goal by USC's David Newbury. They were rewarded with the win moments later when a fourth-down desperation pass by Air Force's Keith Boyea fell incomplete for UTCO.
"Couldn't ask for a better game," Alton said. "Great game, great weather and a big TV audience. I love it."
All of the scoring in the game for UTCO came from either BYU or Utah players. UTCO scored four touchdowns, two by the Utes' running back Adam Tate and two by Utah tight end Dennis Smith, who was the UTCO team MVP.
BYU's Aaron Edmonds had a field goal and three PATs.
"The game and everything was fun," said Phil Evans, a Utah fan from the Salt Lake area. "It was a chance for the players to show off what they could do."