KEARNEY – Even the Shrine Bowl isn’t immune suffering to the wrath of the coronavirus pandemic.
The all-star football game, held annually since 1959, was postponed and given a July 31 deadline to play.
Shrine Bowl Executive Director Dave McDonald emailed players’ parents on April 15 notifying them of the results of a Tuesday conference call with the game’s executive board. Safeguarding the health of all involved, he wrote, was the group’s conclusion for the postponement.
“We will announce a revised date for the game after the new schedule for the week’s activities leading up to the game has been adjusted and we renew our preparations for a dynamic event that will bring Nebraskans from across the state together again. Possible dates for the game include July 11 or July 18,” said McDonald.
McDonald asked parents to complete a preference survey to be returned by April 25 with the hopes of coming up with a make-up date after a board of director’s meeting at the end of April.
Besides the game, the Shrine Bowl assembles an all-star marching band and holds a game-day parade in downtown Kearney.
Five players and two coaches have been selected to take part in the game.
Wahoo standouts Kole Bordovsky and Trevin Luben are slated to play for the North squad alongside Waverly’s Mason Nieman.
Bordovsky was named All-State after spearheading the best defense in C-1 from his linebacker spot.
He finished with a school record 161 tackles, including 10 in the Warriors 38-0 whitewashing of the Pierce Bluejays in the Class C-1 state title game.
Luben rushed for a Class C-1 best 2,137 yards and 41 touchdowns last season for the state champs.
He will graduate in May as the school’s all-time leading rusher (4,736) and point scorer (474).
Luben will play football for the Huskers this Fall.
Nieman accounted for more than nearly 1,800 yards and 20 touchdowns while leading Waverly to a 10-2 record and a spot in the Class b semifinals against eventual champ Omaha Skutt Catholic.
A pair of Ashland-Greenwood players will pad it up for the South team after a solid showing on the gridiron in Class C-1 a year ago.
The Bluejays won all nine of their regular season games and won a playoff game before losing the Wayne Blue Devils in the Class C-1 quarterfinals.
Running back Bryce Kitrell and defensive end Jacob Ludwig were standouts for the Jays and were both selected to play for coaches Ryan Thompson and Nate Tonjes and the South Team.
Kitrell, a future Ohio Bobcat, rushed for 1,197 and 17 touchdowns last season and returned four punts for touchdowns.
Ludwig was a disruptor on the defensive side of the football for the Jays last season finishing with 107 tackles and eight quarterback sacks.
Thompson will be the head coach of the South squad and is honored to be coaching in Nebraska’s elite all-star contest.
“I was asked last summer if I wanted to coach and of course I said yes. What an honor,” said Thompson, who will have a familiar face on the sideline with him. Offensive Coordinator Nate Tonjes will also be a part of the South coaching staff.
Thompson is hopeful that the game will get played, although a football game in the middle of July does present a set of new challenges.
Thompson said that 90 percent of the players selected will be playing college football in the fall and come July may already be enrolled and training for their respective college football teams. Their availability for the game could be in question.
Mid-July temperatures in Kearney could approach triple digits and players conditioning has been compromised by the pandemic over the last month.
“There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered, but Dave is committed to getting the game played, I know that,” Thompson said.
Thompson said that both teams will train and stay in Kearney for the week leading up to the game. Instead of arriving on Saturday the players and coaches would come in on Monday instead.
“In light of everything that has happened, everyone in Kearney has been extremely supportive of us and playing the game,” Thompson stated.