Of the hundreds of Kansas football players that participate in the sport every fall, a relative few get to experience the thrill of winning a state championship. And of those, only a handful will have the opportunity to also play in the Kansas Shrine Bowl, the state’s premier all-star football game, slated for July 28th at Emporia.
In 2012, only seven players whose high school teams won state titles in 2011 will be on the field for the 39th Kansas Shrine Bowl. Five of those will be suited up for the West: (Matt Seiwert, 3A Conway Springs; Derrick Decker , 4A Rose Hill; Najahaun Tipton-Wylie, 5A Hutchinson; Kole Schankie, 8-man Division I Madison; and Joel Struckhoff, 8-man Division II Kensington/Thunder Ridge. Two players, Jared Douglas, 6A Olathe South, and Michael Glatczak, 2A-1A Centralia, were part of championship teams in the East.
For Rose Hill’s Decker, playing in the Shrine Bowl means that he’s accomplished an important goal, one that he outlined as a sophomore. “It’s pretty big for me”, he says. “Only a few players from Rose Hill have ever played in the game, so I’m pretty excited to represent our school.” Shrine Bowl records indicate that Decker will be only the 8th Rose Hill player to be selected to play in the game, all of them selected since 2003.
Decker is a 6’5” 215-pound quarterback that led the Rockets to the Kansas 4A title in 2011, but it was not an easy road. After a season-opening loss to Buhler, Rose Hill ran off 13 straight wins to capture the title, and had to run a gauntlet of teams that have been frequent contenders in 4A including Holton, Andale, Ulysses, Topeka Hayden, and Eudora. Four of those teams—Holton, Ulysses, Topeka Hayden, and Eudora—each had only one loss before meeting Rose Hill in the playoffs. Rose Hill sealed the 4A crown with a 21-0 win over Eudora in the 4A championship game.
He says winning the state title was something he and his teammates had been shooting for. “That was our goal at the beginning of the year”, he says. “The year before we ended up losing to Holton in the playoffs, and we knew if we could get past that first game we could have a run at it. Once we got some momentum, we were going to be a hard team to stop.”
Decker leaves Rose Hill holding many of the school’s offensive records, and a couple of significant ones on the defensive side. Under his leadership, the Rockets compiled a 22-4 record, the most wins for a quarterback at the school. The dual-threat signal-caller also set new Rose Hill standards for most touchdowns passing by a quarterback (14 in 2011 and 26 for his career, and for most yards rushing by a quarterback (1,528 in 2011, 3,068 career). He also set the standard for the most tackles in a season by a strong safety last year with 135, 72 of those solo.
After the Shrine Bowl, Decker will report to Pittsburg State, but he’s not sure which side of the ball he’ll be on for the Gorillas. “I want to be a quarterback”, he says, “but I’m keeping everything open. If I can get on the field at some other position, I’ll have an open mind about it.”
All Shrine Bowl events are produced and presented to benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children [SHC]. SHC is a health care system of 22 hospitals dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing pediatric specialty care, innovative research, and outstanding teaching programs for medical professionals. Children up to the age of 18 are eligible for care and receive all services in a family-centered environment, regardless of the patients' ability to pay. The 39th annual Kansas Shrine Bowl will be played Saturday, July 28th, 2012, in Emporia, Kansas, at Welch Stadium on the Emporia State University campus. Kickoff will be at 7:00 pm. Tickets and additional information are available at www.kansasshrinebowl.com or by calling 800-530-5524.