Archive for Thursday, July 29, 2004

Mason ready for Saturday Shrine Bowl game

July 29, 2004

Micah Mason has always been at the top when it came to athletics, most notably football. But the Baldwin City product is finding he's at another level as practices heat up for Saturday's Shrine Bowl Game.

"It's going great," Mason said Monday from the East squad's Shrine Bowl camp in Emporia. "These guys are huge. I'm looking forward to when practice ends. I'm so sore right now. Sunday we slapped on the pads and got after it. We've been hitting pretty hard."

Mason has spent his Baldwin High School career in the Class 4A division. The Shrine Bowl brings players from Class 6A on down together for the all-star game, which is set for Saturday at Emporia State University's stadium at 7 p.m. as the East team collides with the West.

It's been an eye opener for Mason, who signed with Baker University to continue his football career in Baldwin. He knows he's at a higher level of play.

"Oh, yea, oh, yea, definitely," said Mason of the step up. "They've got me playing defensive end. I've got to go up against the big boys."

Mason, a 6-foot, 218-pounder is the all-time leading rusher in BHS history with 2,011 yards. Despite that, he'll be on the defensive side of the ball at the end position, where he spent some time last year for the Bulldogs.

"That's why they put me there. I'd played it before," he said. "I may get in very little as a running back."

He doesn't mind that, he just wants to play. During June's Metro Area All-Star Classic, a football game between Kansas and Missouri's best, Mason was on the team as a running back, but only got to carry the ball twice. That was disappointing enough, but the game just didn't have the same importance and feel that the Shrine Bowl does, he said.

"Of course, this is better," said Mason. "The big thing about this one compared to the other one is we're pretty close as a team. We hang out all day together. We're one big family.

"I've gotten to know people we've played against, people I've heard about but never got to meet and there are some people from the Metro game here, too," he said.

The typical Shrine Bowl day starts with everyone going to breakfast. Then there's the morning practice, which is split into two sessions, with a break in between. Then it's "down time" where the players rest up, eat lunch and later on dinner, then it's back to the practice field for the evening session.

The team is staying in dormitories on the ESU campus. Mason's roommates are from Olathe North, Emporia and Topeka. The players are fed through the cafeteria and they aren't going hungry.

"Yeh, they're feeding us all right," he said. "They order pizza after practice and there's a room where you can get all sorts of stuff. They're feeding us real well. The dorm rooms are decent living, I guess.

"Everyone hangs out in our room," Mason said. "We've got the Playstation, so we've got some football going on."

Another mainstay of the Shrine Bowl is a trip to the St. Louis hospital where the players get to meet and talk to the children under the Shriner's care. The Shrine Bowl is a fund-raising event to help pay for that hospitalization.

"That was pretty cool," Mason said of the hospital visit. "All those kids, given their circumstances, have a good outlook on life. They were in such awe of us. It was pretty humbling."

Another feeling that Mason is liking is representing Baldwin. It's been more than a decade since the last Bulldog made the team. Brian Lash made the squad in 1994. The last Baker player to make the team was in 2001.

"It's absolutely great. It feels good to be representing Baldwin again," he said. "There are people here from teams that have a tradition of having people here. It feels good. You can tell from players who know what this game means."

There is, however, one thing the Wildcat-to-be would change about the experience if he could.

"I want to sleep in my own bed," said Mason.

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