After years of lining up on opposite sides of each other, three Mid-Continent League standouts are relishing the chance to join forces.
Plainville’s Ryan Junkermeier, Phillipsburg’s Trey Sides and Smith Center's Austin Hobelmann will represent the MCL on the West team in the Kansas Shine Bowl at 7 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Dodge City.
“From seventh grade to senior year, we’ve always competed against each other, whether it be football, basketball, track or whatever,” Junkermeier said after Wednesday’s practice in Salina. “Finally being able to get on a team and hang out with them, they’re a lot cooler than I thought they were,” he added with a grin.
Sides and Hobelmann agreed that it’s been a fun experience teaming up with their former MCL rivals.
“I’m getting to know them a little better, especially Ryan,” Hobelmann said. “I knew Trey pretty well; we go way back. They’re good guys.”
“It’s just cool seeing those guys here too, repping the MCL,” Sides said. “Hopefully, we’ll get things done on Saturday together.”
Hobelmann paved the way on the offensive line for Smith Center’s dominant ground attack, helping the Redmen rack up more than 4,000 rushing yards on their way to their second straight state championship. He also logged 119 tackles, nine tackles for loss and six sacks.
Saturday will be the final football game for Hobelmann, who will play golf at Barton Community College.
“It’d just be great to come out with a win,” Hobelmann said. “It was nice to win my last game with my high school team, but it'd also be nice to get my last high school win.”
Junkermeier, an offensive linemen for the West who helped Plainville go 9-3 last and reach the Class 1A semifinals, will continue his football career at Bethel College.
“All these guys are definitely the top of their class on their football teams to be here and to be able to play in this game,” Junkermeier said. “I’m really excited to see what I can do against the East D-line.”
He said his favorite part of the experience has been building camaraderie with his West teammates.
“The best part is at night, at about nine, we all get frozen Tony’s pizza and we all just sit and chill out and kind of get to know everybody,” Junkermeier said. “It’s been a really cool experience to hear everybody’s stories from high school and build friendships.”
Sides quarterbacked Phillipsburg to a Class 2A state championship, amassing 1,175 yards through the air with 21 touchdowns. He is making the switch to receiver for the Shine Bowl.
“It’s been fun getting to play a different position, running routes, catching the ball, blocking — doing things I didn’t used to do when I was in high school,” Sides said.
Like Hobelmann, Sides will be playing his last football game on Saturday. He is headed to play Division I basketball at Jacksonville.
“When I went down there it was just a beautiful place,” Sides said of choosing Jacksonville. “The coaches were really, really into me from the start, gave me really everything that I wanted. And who doesn’t want to go to Florida for college? It’s going to be a cool experience.”
Colby’s Jordan Schippers, a Western Illinois signee, was selected for the Shrine Bowl but won’t play due to an injury he suffered late in track season.