West eyes another Shrine Bowl victory

In the 2013 11-man North Dakota Shrine Bowl game, the West team erased a 23-point, third-quarter deficit en route to its thrilling 42-41 win, which culminated in a successful two-point conversion in the final frame.

“Last year was one of the most amazing games that I’ve been a part of,” said former Bishop Ryan coach Brad Borkhuis, who served as the West’s head coach. “The way in which we were down in the first half and the way in which the kids all came together and came back and never gave up was amazing.”

Upstaging the fireworks that contest provided might be asking a bit much of this year’s 11-man West roster, but Borkhuis – an assistant coach this year – said his players simply aim to pick up another victory. And they’re taking a page out of the 2013 team’s book.

“We really talk about how stuff is going to happen in the game and we have to make sure we keep our composure and play on for the next play,” Borkhuis said. “That part we really touched on and talked about last year.”

The 11-man game begins at 4 p.m. today at the Fargodome, with the 9-man contest following at 7 p.m. The East and West teams have prepared this week at Mayville State.

Bismarck’s Mark Gibson will serve as the 11-man West head coach, while Borkhuis, Des Lacs-Burlington’s James Johnson and Velva’s Matt Weidler will be assistants. The 9-man West head coaching duties go to Beach’s Mike Zier. Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood’s Cale Peterson is one of three assistants.

Minot High is well-represented on the 11-man West roster, boasting a team-high five members. Ben Love, Jordan Seideman, Josh Pizzo, Kolton Larson and Tre’ Kinchen will all play their final high school football game today. Bismarck and Century each have four players on the roster.

Aside from the game itself, the highlight of the week for many came Friday, when the teams hosted a mini-camp and luncheon for the children of Shriners Hospitals.

“They have an interaction day to meet up with the kids and that day is so special because that’s where it really clicks for the kids. It becomes a physical interaction,” Borkhuis said. “They get to see the kids not as handicapped kids but as kids that are doing some amazing things even though they have some challenges in their lives. They’re normal kids, happy kids. They want to play catch, they want to play frisbee, they want to do all these fun things that any normal kid does; they just need some help to be able to do that and the Shriners provide that.”

The Badlands Bowl and the Shrine Bowl provide players the opportunity to compete alongside many of their rivals. It’s an interesting dynamic, to say the least.

“That right there is the part that is probably the most fun to watch,” Borkhuis said. “I remember way back when I played in this game (in 1997), to see a guy you challenged against and almost hated to compete against, and now you’re on the same team. The respect that develops when they’re on your own side, it was really fun to see the kids get along.”

Now, the 11-man West team hopes to repeat with another win while the 9-man squad seeks a bit of revenge after falling 47-6 last year. Borkhuis expects some familiar faces to appear in the stands.

“A lot of the kids that played on last year’s Shrine team have reached out this year to the kids and said, ‘Good luck.’ I think there will be at least seven of them attending the game,” Borkhuis said. “The brotherhood of Shrine players has been really good here.”

Ryan Holmgren covers Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.