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Charlie's Inside Corner: Are we Shriner quality?
Charlie's Inside Corner

The 42nd annual Kansas Shrine Football Bowl Game will be played Saturday, July 25th at 7:05pm at Fort Hays State University. The Golden Belt area will have three players on the roster; Layne Bieberle of Central Plans, Seth Owen of Hoisington and Sheldon Schmidt of LaCrosse.

The West squads have dominated the all-star game, winning 26 against 14 losses and one tie.  Our Golden Belt teams would all be considered in the West division for picking players for this game. So how have we stacked up over the years? One would expect that the bigger schools would supply the most picks but there are some interesting findings.

Since 1974, when the all-star game was first played, the Great Bend Black Panthers have had 20 players picked with the last being Hunter Harrison for the 2013 game. Most of those picks came during the Bo Black years as head coach of the Panthers.

The Hoisington Cardinals have had 10 players honored with the most previous being for this years’ game in lineman Seth Owen. Interestingly the last pick before that was for the 2010 game and Jacob Owen was picked.

Small school power Claflin has had an amazing 14 picks if we count this years’ honoree Layne Bieberle and 2013 pick Bryce Steiner. Those two played their football under the banner of Central Plains. One has to look no further than this list of honorees to realize that Claflin/Central Plains has been a powerhouse in high school football for some time.

Another school with a rich football tradition is the LaCrosse Leopards and they have had 10 players picked to play in the Shrine Game including this years’ representative Sheldon Schmidt. A look at those ten players shows that the Leopards have provided a number of Division I college players. The Leopards first player selected was in 1980. That was Don Dreher who went on to play his college football for the Wichita State Shockers and “Shock ‘em” he did as he caught the winning touchdown pass from Prince McJunkins as the Wheatshockers upset the Kansas Jayhawks a couple of years later.

The Larned Indians despite some good success in the 1980’s and early ‘90’s and more recently under coach A.B. Stokes, have not been favored with many Shrine Bowl selections as they number only three.

Bruce Loomis in 1975, Eric Busenbark in 1982, and the last representative for the Indians was way back in 1984 , in Jon Tabler, a rugged defensive lineman.

The other 11-man team in the Golden Belt area, the Ellinwood Eagles had Stan Ploutz on that very first Shriner All-Star team in 1974. You’ve got to go all the way back to 1981, 34 years, for the Eagles’ last pick as Michael Joiner made the West squad.

Is there a reason for these disparities? Sure, talent and winning football teams are a big factor but another factor might be that some coaches put more emphasis on all-league, all-state and Shrine Bowl honors. They make sure their best players get recognized, whether or not their team has a winning record. I appreciate that in a coach. He knows that if his players get recognized, then his program will also get its’ plaudits.

Great Bend’s Bo Black coached in three Shrine Bowl games. Sherm Price coached in the initial game in 1974. Claflin has had four different coaches coach in the game.  For LaCrosse, Jon Webster, Ryan Cornelsen and Richard West have all coached in the important game.

What came first, the chicken or the egg? Did the coaches get to coach in the game because they had good players or did the players get recognized because of their coaches and their emphasis? Certainly they go hand in hand but don’t we recognize a pattern here?

There are a lot of winners represented in these Kansas Shriner All-Star Football games but the BIGGEST winners are the kids at the Shriners hospitals in St. Louis and across the country. Shriners, YOU are winners!