Enterprise’s Blu Risseeuw, above left, blocks a defensive back during practice Tuesday at Eastern Oregon University. Risseeuw is one of the five local players who will represent the East squad in the East-West Shrine Game Saturday in Baker City. (Casey Kellas/The Observer)
Local players look to contribute in Shrine game
Preparation for the East-West Shrine game can be a hectic process. Players who have never played together are forced to get comfortable with each other in a week’s time.
But this year’s group of players on the East squad have adjusted quickly.
“It’s kind of cool being here with all of these seniors who know what they’re doing,”
“You don’t have to stop practice and show everyone what they need to do.”
The East-West Shrine football game will kick off Saturday in Baker City for the 61st time, pitting the best players in the state from the 1A through 4A levels.
This year’s contest has five local players representing the East squad.
Among them are Fuller, Cove’s Cameron McCowan, Imbler’s Rowdy Graves, Powder Valley’s Colton Eubanks and Enterprise’s Blu Risseeuw.
The team has been practicing since Saturday at Eastern Oregon University.
The coaches have made sure every player is getting plenty of time on the practice field.
“It’s been good. We’ve been getting a lot of reps,” Risseeuw said. “It feels good to start running again. I like the offense we’re running. We’re playing good defense. I should be playing both sides of the ball, so it should be fun.”
Risseeuw said he is going to be playing wide receiver on offense and safety and cornerback on defense.
Eubanks, who was an all-Old Oregon League running back last season, has been getting reps with the running backs and at cornerback, along with returning kicks.
Graves, McCowan and Fuller will all get time on the offensive and defensive lines.
The East squad is getting coached by Jonathan Gettman of Cascade Christian, Todd Willaman of North Valley, Dennis Dunlea of Lost River and Mike Somnis of Sherman.
Willaman and Dunlea have helped coach the Shrine game twice before, so the process of implementing the schemes has gone fairly smooth so far.
“I think they’ve picked it up pretty fast,” Willaman said. “It’s just amazing how you have all of these different guys coming together from different schemes, but they all have football knowledge. So, they’re picking it up pretty quickly.”
With only a week to prepare for a game against a West squad that is full of all-stars in their own right, the coaches said the learning process is quick.
But the players have handled it so far.
“We have to coach a lot faster,” Dunlea said. “The teaching part is, we explain it and (the players) get it. If they do it wrong, then we explain it again and they got it.”
And while it’s easy to get caught up in the Xs and Os aspect of the game, Risseeuw has taken a simpler
“Football is football,” Risseeuw said. “It’s different play calls, but you pick it up.”
The coaches didn’t say that any one player or group of players has stood out so far.
“They’re all just good, down-to-earth kids,” Dunlea said.
“They’re polite, respectful and do whatever we ask them to do. And football wise, they’re all pretty darn good.”
The West has come out on top three straight years, including last year’s 31-28, last-second-field-goal victory.
It will be on this year’s players from the East to try and end the drought.
Fuller said he wants to contribute in any way he can come Saturday to try and help the East get a win.
“I’m not quite as big a fish in this pond as (I was in high school),” Fuller said. “So, wherever they can use me, I’m happy to play.”
Risseeuw agreed that it is going to take a full team effort to stop the West from winning its fourth straight game.
“I just want to help my teammates out. Have their backs,” he said.
At the end of the day, though, the game is all about having fun and making memories. Something the coaching staff has kept in mind all week.
“We’re going to enjoy the hell out of it,” Willaman said.
Dunlea was quick to agree.
“Our priority for that game is to make sure the players walk away with a good experience,” he said. “Hopefully, we score one more point than they do. That would make it even better.”