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Ubelaker looks to make impact on Shrine Bowl

By ARNE GREEN

Special to The Hays Daily News

SALINA -- Kenton Ubelaker already proved during a standout career at Osborne High School he's one of the top eight-man football players in the state.

What he'd like to show this week is that the eight-man label is irrelevant.

"The game is a lot different in terms of the way things are played, but it's still football," said Ubelaker, one of two eight-man representatives on the West team for the annual Kansas Shrine Bowl all-star game. "You still have to tackle and score."

Still, Ubelaker looks forward to display his talents on an 11-man field when his team battles the East at 7 p.m. Saturday at Carney Smith Stadium in Pittsburg.

"Getting to play with these guys is a real honor and what we're playing for is a huge deal," he said of the game, which serves as a fundraiser for the Shriners Hospitals for Children. "It's great meeting all these guys.

"You hear of all these big-name guys in high school football, but when it comes down to it, they're just people like you and me."

While they have fit in just fine off the field during this week's West training camp at St. John's Military School, Ubelaker and Dalton Walker of Sharon Springs also are adjusting on the field.

The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Ubelaker is battling for a starting spot at cornerback while Walker (5-8, 210) also is on defense as a linebacker or lineman.

Beloit offensive lineman Bryce Black, who has known Ubelaker for years -- Beloit and Osborne are less than 40 miles apart -- has no doubt that he can hold his own.

"I thing that has impressed me about Kenton is his speed," Black said. "He's really fast and he's fearless, too.

"He doesn't care if he's going up against a 6A person. He's fearless and he just goes."

That certainly was the case at Osborne, where Ubelaker helped the Bulldogs to the Eight-Man Division I state title with a 13-0 record.

As a running back, he led the team in rushing with 1,545 yards and 25 touchdowns, caught 37 passes for 533 yards and nine scores and even completed 11 of 14 passes for 57 yards and another TD.

On defense, he had 111 tackles and four interceptions from his safety position.

Though he freely admits that he prefers offense, Ubelaker also is a realist when it comes to the Shrine Bowl.

"We probably have six or seven running backs," he said. "And all of them are playing receiver, too."

Ubelaker likely will redshirt this fall when he begins his college career at Fort Hays State Univeristy, and he said it remains to be seen whether he ends up on offense or defense with the Tigers. But he clearly considers himself a running back first.

"I think I am," he said with a smile. "Hopefully they think so, too."