Every year the best high school football players in the state of Kansas are selected to represent their schools in one of the most prestigious all-star games in the country.
And it’s all for a worthy cause.
“It’s probably one of the most special things to happen to me in my coaching career to be a part of the shrine bowl,” Shawnee Heights head coach Jason Swift said.
It’s the 40th annual Kansas Shrine Bowl and the game returns to the capital city.
“It’s awesome,” Shawnee Heights linebacker Braden Werner said. “It’s just a huge honor. My dad was selected to play in this game thirty years ago, but it’s been pretty awesome just to go through the experience of this, and this is probably the highlight of my high school career right now.”
“This is one of the greatest honors you can get,” Hayden defensive lineman Andy Otting said.
Even state champion linebacker Trent Tanking of Holton understands how special it is to be selected.
“It was actually one of my highest honors that I got, and one of the ones I took the most pride in, because I know that this actually means something,” Tanking said. “It goes to a good cause. It’s not just an individual honor. It’s a Kansas honor. Being able to play in the shrine bowl, and support these hospitals all around the country.”
The Shrine Bowl has raised over $2.5 Million to support the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
“Even though we’re playing to win, and the concentration is East let’s beat West,” Swift said . “We’re playing more than just for our football game. We’re playing to benefit.”
The East squad has lost seven Shrine Bowls in a row and Saturday’s matchup at Yager Stadium will be a chance for many of these players to represent their hometown.
“I think that’s honestly one of the best things about playing football in the Shrine Bowl,” Topeka High quarterback Raymond Solis said. “I think it just makes you not want to take anything for granted.”
“We’re shooting for nothing less than a victory,” Otting said. “I think we can do it. I mean everybody talks about the west and seven straight years, but that’s just each year is a new team, we’re a new team, they’re a new team, and I think we’ve got just as good of a chance.”
Saturday’s kickoff is at 7:05 PM at Washburn’s Yager Stadium.
“To me, we’ve been practicing and planning on winning, so whatever has happened in the past, that doesn’t mean anything for this year, and especially, when you see the guys we’ve been with, and watching them work out, and the way they’ve come together,” Swift said. “I’m really excited for our chances on Saturday.”