A return to normal

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Football is back -- and that feels really good to say.
Saturday marks a return to the gridiron in Nebraska with the 62nd annual Shrine Bowl game set for a 2 p.m. kickoff at UNK.
Our area will be well represented across the board with former Aurora athletes Ryan Marlatt and Husker walk-on Nate Boerkircher joining forces with former High Plains and now UNK running back Keaton Van Housen on the South squad.
It’s interesting how this unfolds, given the circumstances. Back in March as the nationwide shutdown entered the sports realm, the NSAA boys state tournament forged on, almost unprecedented. As every other sporting event in the world was quieted, Nebraska’s high school state tournament was seemingly the last of its kind.
Highlights of several games were shown on ESPN’s Sportscenter for crying out loud.
Now, as sports leagues begin to restart, Nebraska will host the first football game since the shutdown. Could that mean another ESPN appearance for Nebraska high school athletics.
I don’t know, but I’d buckle my chin strap a bit tighter in case.
For Marlatt, he’s having fun going through one of his last football experiences and wants to enjoy every moment.
It should be a fun time for him, playing alongside his cousin, Tyler, from Elmwood-Murdock. Without this game, those two would never had that chance.
His dad, Rob, also played in the Shrine Bowl game in 1986, continuing a family tradition.
Van Housen also has that chance following the footsteps of his dad, Paul and uncle, Dale who also played in the Shrine Bowl. Paul played in 1988 while Dale suited up in 1990, both graduates of Polk-Hordville.
It will be his first 11-man game, but certainly not his last. Once the Shrine Bowl is over, he will hang around the UNK football facility for another four or so years playing for the Lopers.
While other athletes chose to shy away from the Shrine Bowl game and get ready for college ball, Boerkircher will play on.
The former Auroran will be one of three Nebraska walk-ons to play in the game.
Entering the month of July, the usual twitch in my neck yearning for the game of football increases with each sun-soaked afternoon. Given the current circumstances of life right now, any sport in general feels like that first sip of water from the hose on a steamy summer day.
I miss the sound of the whistles. I miss the smell of the turf. I miss the visual of downfield blocking. Heck, I miss the threat of possibly getting bowled over on the sideline trying to get “the shot.”
I miss normal. Saturday afternoon, a slice of “normal” should return.
RICHARD RHODEN can be reached at sports@hamilton.net.


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