It’s Shrine Time.
It’s East vs. West, all for the Shriners Hospital. It’s Gladstone vs. La Grande, Rainier vs. Vale, and Coquille vs. Heppner. A conglomeration of all the most high-profile matchups of the last four years culminating in this one charity event. Each year, the Shrine game takes shape as the closing act, the final stanza of the prior year’s stories and character arcs, and it gives closure to the high school careers of dozens of players. This year, just as the last, the game takes on added significance, not only because of the stories involved, but because of how long it has taken to get here and just how much there is to say goodbye to.
There is a laundry list of program-defining achievements the Shrine game will play final homage to: Siuslaw’s slow climb back to supremacy after a decade lost in the fray, Coquille finally breaking through and winning a state title, the last organized football game to feature a member of the Tripp dynasty wearing a helmet and pads, and countless others.
We talked to East Head Coach Erik Davis–Head Coach of the Pendleton Buckaroos–about how he got involved in the game: “I’ve coached in the Les Schwab Bowl the last two years and really just enjoyed that process, I thought it was an honor and a lot of coaches don’t get that opportunity. It’s one of those things where if you’re asked to do something like that you take it as an honor and put your best effort into it; It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’ve been lucky enough to do three (all-star games) but never the Shrine Game, I thought it was a great opportunity being so close to home.”
“I think one of the best things about the Shrine Game is they’ve kept it traditional. These are graduated seniors, this is their opportunity whether its their last chance to play football or a stepping stone to the next level. I think that prurity is a huge positive. This is their swansong.”
“It’s a family, these kids are best friends right now, and they didn’t know each other Sunday afternoon. That’s what’s so cool.”
That’s the background and setup; now, for Saturday: who’s going to win this thing?
The East is loaded once again this year. The conversation starts, and possibly could end, with Gunner Yates. The Coquille standout will be the best weapon either side can employ, and given the ball in space, he is flat-out magical.
Coach Davis said of Yates, “We call him the all-american. He’s one of the most humble kids I’ve ever been around. He’s such an easy person to be around, the more I’m around him the more I like him. I truly believe he’s a D1 talent and [Southern Oregon] got themselves a great one”.
Any scenario where the West pulls this one out has to start with stopping Yates, but if that means overcommitting and opening up opportunities for others like Camp Lacouture, the West could find themselves in an impossible conundrum very quickly. Given the chance, their receivers, namely Jackson Risinger, can put the game away early.
Where the West has their advantage on first glance is the run and quick game they might be able to employ offensively, and the talent across the board defensively. Keeping weapons like Yates and Lacouture off the field and controlling time of possession could very well be a viable path to victory. Jacob Preston of Yamhill-Carlton, Tanner Jackson of Knappa, and Stone Ware of Rainier could be the unsuspecting but efficient backfield that ends up controlling the game. Throw in Kenny Tripp, the final heir to the Tripp family dynasty of Rainier athletics who is capable of playing virtually every skill position, and the West offense should be formidable. Exciting as well is the fact that the West offense is coordinated by Scappoose head coach Sean McNabb, whose son Luke will be playing quarterback for the West.
There are some incredible coaches in this year’s game to go along with the incredible talent, so a prediction is tough. Give us the East 28-21.
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