Tom Beason, Goddard coach and Shrine Bowl assistant, leaned over with a little bit of a laugh.
“When I tap you on the shoulder, make sure you’re recording,” Beason said.
Beason has been known to throw a trick play with his Lions more often than most Kansas high school football coaches, but the one he called Saturday, he pulled from a friend five years ago in Pennsylvania.
Great Bend quarterback Koy Brack waved his right hand to send Pratt’s Travis Theis in motion from about 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage, like a Canadian Football League play. Theis came across Brack’s face at the snap and received a handoff.
He ran toward the sideline and tossed the ball back to Phillipsburg’s Trey Sides, who had bounced behind the line from his receiver spot. Sides caught it and threw it 35 yards downfield to Hesston’s Parker Roth.
It was a play out of a pickup game, but it worked at one of the most crucial points in the game and helped the West All-Stars go on for a 26-7 win over the East in the 2019 Kansas Shrine Bowl in Dodge City.
“We had to pull the trigger when he had the chance,” Beason said. “It worked like a champ. I bet 6,000 people went, ‘What the hell is that kid doing?’ But it worked like a champion. ... The biggest thing is the kids were willing to do something they have never done before.”
Beason said he called the play “Rope swing,” he said. About a week before the Shrine Bowl, Theis posted a video to social media that was picked up by several national media outlets. He and 10 of his friends jumped on a rope as they swung over the water back in Pratt. In the play, Theis, a top 11 player in Kansas, was the decoy.
The play was also the epitome of the West training camp: Players out of position, continuing to perform.
Theis was a quarterback at Pratt, though he ran almost every time he touched it. And the Greenbacks certainly never lined him up as a receiver, especially 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage. He helped them to a Class 3A runner-up finish in 2018.
Sides was a quarterback at Phillipsburg. He helped the Panthers to a state championship in Class 2A. But Sides isn’t even a football player first; he is signed to play Division I basketball at Jacksonville University in Florida. When he got to West camp, the coaches didn’t know where to put him. They already had eight other players who threw passes during their high school seasons.
Tyson Bauerle, Hesston coach and Shrine Bowl head coach, said, “We could put you on defense. We could put you on offense. We’ve got a crowded backfield. What do you think about receiver?” Sides said he was going to do whatever it took to win.
The receiver on the play, Roth, played running back and quarterback at Hesston. He was one of the most powerful runners in the state, but with good hands and players like Theis, Salina Central’s Taylon Peters and Wichita Heights’ K’Vonte Baker on the team, he wasn’t needed in the backfield.
On the offensive line, Conway Springs’ Daniel Becker dropped back into a pass block set. It was something he had never learned how to do until a week before Saturday. At Conway Springs, the Cardinals run the ball almost every play, so there was no need to know it. Beason said he was amazing at it after just seven days.
Bauerle said the versatility and coachability of his group made the difference. Even while playing in different spots, the West squad didn’t have a penalty called against it until the second half.
“I’m proud of how they came together as a group,” he said. “I’m proud of them learning about what the Shriners is about and then coming out and playing with as much energy and passion as they did. We kind of held them back a little bit during the week, so we thought we had some pieces together, but we weren’t quite sure.
“It was good to see them unleashed.”
The same could be said of the West defense, who held the East scoreless through the first half. The East’s lone touchdown came on a 5-yard scramble from Shawnee Mission South quarterback Jack Roberts, who was named East MVP.
Roberts didn’t have his most outstanding game of his career, but where the East team was bright, he was involved.
“Even though the score didn’t go our way, this was one of the best weeks of my life,” Roberts said. “I made a bond with some of these kids that will last a lifetime. I couldn’t be happier even in a loss. I’m glad I could come out here and represent for Shawnee Mission South,” he said. “I don’t think that has happened at the Shrine Bowl in a long time.”
Roberts is headed to Pittsburg State to play football. His No. 1 connection Saturday night was his future teammate, Pittsburg receiver Dylan White. Roberts said he is excited to see what they can do together come the fall.
But the night belonged to the West. Maize quarterback Caleb Grill finished his outstanding career earning West team MVP after throwing for a pair of touchdowns, including one to Sides that came on a sidearm pass that resembled something like the quarterback who plays in Kansas City.
Along with Grill’s superb night, Valley Center’s Larry Wilson made massive contributions every time he touched the ball. He was the most electric player on the field and ripped off several big runs, including one late in the fourth quarter that went for about 40 yards and put the West in place to seal the win with a touchdown from Peters.
The West defense was equally as eye-popping. Players like Northwest’s Josh Carter, Ell-Saline’s Nick Davenport and Derby’s Isaac Keener started laying welcome mats in the East backfield. They finished with a handful of sacks and numerous hurries and tackles for losses.
Carter said it was an experience he will never forget.
“It was just awesome putting this wing helmet on one last time and spending the week with these guys,” he said. “Getting the dub out here was just the cherry on top.”