All eyes across the Sunflower State turned to Lewis Field Stadium in Hays for the 50th Annual Kansas Shrine Bowl All-Star game.
The monumental anniversary brought together dozens of the state’s finest High School Football players to raise money for ISIS Shriner’s Children’s Hospitals.
The Salina and Central Kansas area was well represented on the gridiron as well. From Salina Central Head Coach Mark Sadbo serving as a West assistant coach, to student-athletes Kenyon McMillan (Salina Central), Luke Gebhardt (Southeast of Saline), Gradey Seyfert (Beloit), Braxton Lafferty (Little River), and more.
The packed house hoped to be treated to yet another tight contest, just perhaps not as tight as the 2022 installment, which ended in a 10-10 tie. They got almost exactly that, as the West squad earned its 31st all-time win, surviving an East team comeback for a 21-20 victory.
Salina Central’s Kenyon McMillan carried the load for much of the night for the West side at running back, and even put them on the scoreboard first. The future Bethel Thresher rumbled in for a 1-yard score early in the first quarter, and the green-clad West team would never trail the rest of the way.
The West would extend their lead to 14-0 on a Keenan Schartz (Manhattan) touchdown pass to Ty Smith (Circle) , but the East would answer back just before halftime as Keller Hurla (St. Mary’s) would connect on a touchdown pass to Malik O’Atis (Shawnee Mission Northwest), but the two point conversion would fail. The West would lead 14-6 at the break.
Schartz would extend the West’s lead on a short touchdown run in the third quarter, pushing the score to 21-6. From there, the West would control the game until the fourth quarter, when the East began to rally.
In that fourth quarter, East would be faced with a 4th and goal, but had no choice but to go for it. Luke Niggeman of Girard would haul in a pass in the back of the end zone. Troy’s Jared Norris would then make a spectacular diving grab for the two point try to bring his team back within a touchdown at 21-14.
With just over five minutes to play, Eric Butler of Olathe Northwest would push into the end zone and bring the East within one point. A missed two-point try would keep them behind, but the East would get one more try.
A stop on fourth down near mid field for the East’s defense would get them the ball back, but that’s when the West defense would stand tall.
On fourth down with a minute to play, Braxton Lafferty of Little River would blitz, sacking the East Quarterback and sealing the victory for the West.
The win is the 31st all-time for the West, who now owns a 31-17-2 advantage in the 50 years of the series.
The 2023 installment will return in July of 2024 at Welch Stadium in Emporia. Fans can hear interviews from several area coaches and athletes on Monday’s episode of In The Zone on 1150 KSAL and 106.7 FM from 5-6 PM.