Jun. 18—The decision in 2020 to call off the Shrine Bowl for the first time in its history wasn't taken lightly by executive director Bill Lorenz.
"It was a tough decision to pull the pin last summer because last year's seniors lost out on so much through the winter and spring and now we had to take another thing away," the Grand Forks Central head football coach said. "This year's group saw what those kids went through last year and there's a sense that it's a special thing and happy to be able to play."
The Shrine Bowl is back this week, with players and coaches from across the state staying and practicing at Mayville State in preparation for the 9-man and 11-man games Saturday at West Fargo Sheyenne High School.
Lorenz said the Shrine Bowl committee has reached out to 2020 Shrine Bowl selections, encouraging them to attend the 2021 event and be recognized at halftime.
The Shrine Bowl, which dates back to 1974, was previously played in July. The game was moved to June with the recent decision to no longer play the MonDak game between Montana and North Dakota.
Lorenz, who has been in the Shrine role for nine years, said this week has gone well.
"There's nothing but positive feedback from the staff and kids," he said. "The big thing with the Shrine game is that, yes, everyone is here to play football, but as the week goes on, the Shrine groups do a great job teaching the kids that they're playing the game for a greater cause."
Outside of the games, one of the highlights of the week is Thursday when Shrine Hospital workers from Minneapolis visit the football players and give an overview of what takes place at the hospital.
"The kids really learn about what the hospital does," Lorenz said. "It really opens their eyes to see what some kids their own age deal with on a daily basis."
The Shrine 9- and 11-man games match outstanding seniors in the 2020 high school season from eastern North Dakota against their counterparts from Western North Dakota, with some players from western Minnesota added to all the teams.
The 11-man game will kick off at 4 p.m. with the 9-man game to follow at 7 p.m. There are no attendance restrictions for the games.
Profits from the Shrine Bowl are split between the Shrine Hospital in the Twin Cities and a transportation fund to get patients and their families to the hospital.
In 2019, the North Dakota Shrine Bowl raised approximately $65,000 for the charities.
Lorenz said the committee is anticipating fundraising to be on par with past games.
The 11-man East team has three members from Greater Grand Forks including Grand Forks Central quarterback Ty Lorenz, Grand Forks Red River offensive lineman Sam Sather and East Grand Forks Senior High quarterback Sam Votava.
Sather, the son of UND men's basketball coach Paul Sather, has committed to compete in football and track at Northern State.
"It's good work with guys you knew but maybe not personally," Sam Sather said. "We've got a lot of bonding in this last week just getting ready for Saturday.
"We're going against the best players in all of North Dakota, so going against defensive ends every day that are first- and second-team all-state guys, whereas during the year you're going against maybe one stud defensive lineman on a team. It's a way to get better to progress toward college, where I'll be going against a 350-pound dude that can tear my head off."
Sather, at 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, will play tackle in the Shrine Bowl before moving to guard at the college level. He expects to redshirt this fall.
The 11-man East team also includes a trio of Langdon-Edmore-Munich players from the Cardinals' program that has won three-straight state titles. Those players are Alex Cluchie and twins Simon and Grant Romfo. Simon has committed to the UND football program, while Grant is committed to North Dakota State.
The 11-man West team includes two UND commitments in Bismarck Century offensive lineman Hunter Harvey and Bismarck Legacy wide receiver Nick Kupfer.