The East all-stars rallied for a 17-10 victory during the 2005 Kansas Shrine Bowl at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan.
Of course, that was the last time the East squad beat the West, which leads the all-time series 25-13-1, during the state’s premier all-star football exhibition for recent high school graduates.
This year’s East squad, which includes 14 players from local schools and four local coaches, is well aware of that grim history and aims to change it at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Washburn University’s Yager Stadium in Topeka.
“It’s like (Shawnee Heights and East all-star head coach Jason) Swift told the kids the first day, ‘It’s been seven years, but this is a new year and a new team,’ ” said Bishop Miege coach Jon Holmes, one of Swift’s assistants for the game. “We’ve really had a great week, and the guys are really starting to come together.”
There’s not as much pressure as a state playoff game, but pride still provides plenty of motivation.
“It’s really important to start a new tradition here and have the East start winning again,” said wide receiver Austin Moses, a Blue Valley Northwest graduate who will play at Highland Community College in the fall. “That’s all we’ve worried about in practice is figuring out how we can win this game and get the East back on track.”
Still, winning — while important for the East — isn’t paramount this week.
Players from both camps visited a hospital for sick children on Thursday, giving them a greater sense of purpose for the latest Shrine Bowl, which has raised more than $2.5 million for Shriners Hospitals for Children since the game’s inception in 1974.
“The chance to visit the kids we are playing for and that was really special,” Moses said. “I think most of the players got a lot out of that. No matter what the score is, it’s all about the kids, and that’s why I wanted to play in this game. These kids deserve the help, and to see how happy they were, it means so much to them and that makes it all worthwhile.”
Still, the East believes it has assembled a team that can end the seven-game skid.
Blue Valley graduate Cole Combes, who signed with Emporia State, said Piper cornerback Keaton Cofield has impressed and the squad’s running backs, including SM West’s Brett Sterbach and BV West’s Conley Wilkins, have been standouts as well.
Meanwhile, Holmes singled out Olathe South linebacker Remington Whitley and Eudora defensive lineman Nick Becker as stars at camp along with Topeka High quarterback Raymond Solis, who arrived in camp as a replacement when BV Southwest’s Aaron Ramsey was injured.
“Our whole team is pretty stacked, so I think we have a good chance of coming out on top this year,” Combes said.To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.