Much like their 2018 season, Derby’s Hunter Igo and Isaac Keener saw defense tell a defining story in Saturday’s 46th annual Kansas Shrine Bowl.
Playing in the secondary and defensive line, respectively, Igo and Keener helped anchor a West defense that held the East squad to 130 yards of total offense. Led by Hesston head coach Tyson Bauerle, the West picked up the 26-7 win and now have won 28 of the 46 games.
“We knew coming in that we had a good team and we could easily win the game,” Igo said. “We made it happen and took it to them.”
Holding the East roster without a point until the third quarter resonated with Igo, who said they won with energy at the line of scrimmage back through the defense.
“I was definitely proud of our defense and how we were running to the ball,” Keener added. “We were tracking down the ball carrier and gave the quarterback some fits.”
The game MVP was Maize quarterback and Iowa State men’s basketball signee Caleb Grill. The senior threw two touchdown passes and helped the West with its largest margin of victory since 2011.
“It was definitely something else seeing him at camp,” Keener said. “… He’s a special athlete doing basketball, football and track and field. It’s ridiculous and he does it at a high level.”
Both players were impressed with how quickly they connected with their teammates, considering they only had a week together ahead of Saturday’s games.
“I didn’t know for sure how well we’d all get along and if we’d break off into groups or not,” Igo said. “It was at lunch the very first day that we figured out that wasn’t how it was going to be. We all sat with each other, talked and was like a normal team a few weeks into a season.”
While the victory certainly tasted sweet, both were quick to mention the roots of the game and getting to meet patients of the Shriners Hospital.
In the days leading up to the game, patients came to meet the players in Dodge City and shared stories of battling illness.
“There was one patient that talked about ‘why not me?’ and how he was overcoming struggles,” Keener said. “He talked about how you shouldn’t sulk in negative times and embrace the struggles and overcome them.”
The game also gave both Derby seniors the opportunity to play with future collegiate teammates.
Igo played in the secondary with fellow Fort Hays State signee, Lane Whisennand of Elkhart. Keener suited up with Washburn signee and Salina Central running back Taylon Peters. On the East roster, Sabetha’s Cauy Rokey will also be joining the duo in Topeka next fall.