Norton well represented at Shrine Bowl

Rick Peterson Jr.
Norton's Judson Wiltfong, center, practices with the Shrine Bowl West team on Wednesday at Shawnee Heights High School.

TOPEKA — With two players and a coach representing Norton on the Kansas Shrine Bowl West team, the Bluejays will get one more chance to celebrate a banner season.

Norton’s Kade Melvin and Judson Wiltfong will play for the West, while Norton head coach Lucas Melvin, Kade’s father, will be an assistant in Saturday’s 7 p.m. Shrine Bowl at Topeka’s Hummer Sports Park.

The Bluejays reached the Class 2A state championship game last season, finishing 9-4.

“When I get two guys (on the team), and I get to coach in the Shrine Bowl, that’s all because of our team and what our team did, because you have to have a good year to get to the Shrine Bowl,” Melvin said. “It was a hugely special year.

“We’re here because of what our team was able to do. We feel a very strong representation of Norton and we’re proud of the guys that got us here, too.”

The players and Coach Melvin are doing their best to soak up the experience.

“It feels amazing,” Kade Melvin said. “It’s really nice to come back out with my dad and one of my best friends. To play with them again is an awesome feeling.”

“One more shot to play for Norton, represent them one more time,” Wiltfong said. “I get to play with Kade and Coach Melvin again. It’s awesome.”

Melvin will play quarterback for the West team, while Wiltfong will play on the defensive line. Both players are headed to Fort Hays State.

“It’s special to coach in this game, let alone, to get to have your son play and another one of your players — I’ve loved Judson just as much growing up and getting to coach him over the years,” Lucas Melvin said. “It’s super special.”

Wiltfong, who had 156 tackles and 10 sacks last year, got the call to join the West team a couple weeks ago.

“We actually just got done working out in Hays, and I had a voicemail letting me know I was coming and I was super excited about that,” Wiltfong said.

He said he felt comfortable accepting the invitation and credited the Shrine Bowl for creating a safe environment at camp in Topeka.

“I knew that they’d make sure that we were safe,” Wiltfong said. “It’s a safety first thing, and I knew they’d take care of us.”

Melvin passed for 1,645 yards and 12 touchdowns last year and rushed for 1,207 yards and 19 touchdowns.

He said his favorite part of the camp has been competing with top players from around the state.

“None of us have been on a team this all-starred out, so it’s been amazing to just compete with each other and have a fun time doing it,” Melvin said.

Norton’s season was highlighted by a thrilling 10-8 victory over Hoisington in the 2A semifinals. The Bluejays won on a last-second field goal, avenging a 31-point loss to Hoisington earlier in the season. Norton fell 19-0 to Nemaha Central in the title game.

“First time going to (the state title game) for Norton in the past 30 years, got my dad his 100th win as a head football coach; we’ve had plenty of memories,” Kade Melvin said. “Although we ended on a sour note, it’s still an amazing year that I’ll remember forever.”

Lucas Melvin said it’s been a blessing for the Shrine Bowl to take place after the uncertainty due to the pandemic.

“Every day you were waiting for the text that tells you that you’re not gonna (have the game), but you’re also praying,” Coach Melvin said. “God’s in control. He’s going to make it happen if it’s supposed to be. And I guess it was, because we’re out here. The Shrine Bowl has gone through every hoop that they can to make sure that it’s safe. And it’s been fun.

“The kids come out every day, they’re busting it, they’re having fun,” Melvin added. “They’re all great players and super fun to coach, and they’re all motivated players. It’s a really sweet deal and the kids are doing great.”

Here’s a look at other area players for the West:

Hayden Brown, Hays High — Brown recorded over 2,000 career rushing yards and over 1,000 career receiving yards with 32 touchdowns and three kickoff return touchdowns. Brown will play for his father, Chris Brown, at Fort Hays State.

Brady Dinkel, St. Francis — After an outstanding career at St. Francis, Dinkel got the Shrine Bowl selection after leading the Indians to a 12-1 season and runner-up finish in the Eight-Man Division I ranks. He rushed for 1,639 yards and 30 rushing touchdowns as a senior.

Jordan Finnesy, Plainville — Finnesy was a standout quarterback and defensive back for the Cardinals. He threw for 1,125 yards and 14 touchdowns while rushing for 1,023 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also had 82 tackles with four interceptions. He’s headed to Washburn and will play safety.

Joel Montgomery, Smith Center — Montgomery had 105 tackles for the Redmen and helped anchor Smith Center’s offensive line last season. Smith Center was runner-up in Class 1A last year after winning state titles in 2017 and 2018.

Calvin Stapp, Colby — Stapp rushed for 1,266 yards with 22 touchdowns in 10 games for the Eagles. He also caught 28 passes for 413 yards with three touchdowns.



Timirance Adams, Shawnee Heights; Adam Albertini, St. Paul; Luke Barger, DeSoto; Hunter Boone, Prairie View; Quinn Buessing, Axtell; Jaylen Carter, Washburn Rural; Thomas Cook, Blue Valley West; Kody Davoren, Rossville; Gabe Garber, Sabetha; Johnathan Goetting, Colgan; Garrett Harding, Louisburg; Connor Hasz, Paola; Kamble Haverkamp, Centralia; Conor Haviland, Humboldt; Colby Hoelting, Olpe; CJ Horton, Fort Scott; Joshua Hull, Humboldt; Caype Johnston, Erie; Drake McCall, Washburn Rural; Tee Preisner, Northern Heights; Evan Ranallo, Blue Valley Northwest; Grant Roush, Perry-Lecompton; Kauli Saili, Jefferson West; Nick Sarwinski, Galena; Andrew Schmidtlein, Hayden; Ethan Shawver, Riverton; Abe Siebenmorgen, Maur Hill; Storm Slupianek, Marysville; Reid Spachman, Blue Valley North; Komesh Spoonhunter, Royal Valley; Chase Torkelson, Basehor-Linwood; Bryce Uphaus, Nemaha Central; Taybor Vetter, Wamego; Riley Wagner, Emporia; Dylan Wells, Topeka West; Carson Williams, Jackson Heights.

Coaches — Steve Buhler, Washburn Rural (head); Jason Swift, Shawnee Heights; Brian King, DeSoto; Mike Dumpert, Paola; Mike Paramore, Perry-Lecompton; Johnny Mallatt, Riverton; Larry Glatczak, Centralia.


Hayden Brown, Hays; Jeremiah Brown, Wichita West; Tony Caldwell, Valley Center; Refugio Chairez, Garden City; Trey DeGarmo, Andover Central; Brady Dinkel, St. Francis; Tyler Dorsey, Derby; Scotti Easter, Andale; Jordan Finnesy, Plainville; Beau Foster, Dodge City; Jacob Fredrickson, Buhler; Ty Garrett, Salina South; Garrett Harmison, Riley County; Kaeden Hoefer, Goddard; Tyce Hoover, Manhattan; Creighton Johnson, Beloit; Jackson Kavanagh, Salina Central; Dawson Martin, Conway Springs; Kade Melvin, Norton; Dalton Miller, Great Bend; Trevion Mitchell, Maize South; Joel Montgomery, Smith Center; Carter Morrow, Goddard; Chance Omli, Eisenhower; Hadley Panzer, Lakin; Wyatt Pedigo, Hoisington; Riley Petz, Cheney; Keaton Robertson, Maize; Kale Schroeder, Sedgwick; Phoenix Smith, Carroll; Calvin Stapp, Colby; Nolan Streit, Clearwater; Joe Williams III, Wichita North; Judson Wiltfong, Norton; Hunter Yager, Scott City; Eyann Zimmerman, Republic County.

Coaches — Tom Beason, Goddard (head); Russ Wells, Wichita South; Erin Beck, Great Bend; Derek Tuttle, Andover Central; Shelby Wehrman, Cheney; Lucas Melvin, Norton; Jeff Werner.

Norton's Kade Melvin will play quarterback for the West team in Saturday's Kansas Shrine Bowl in Topeka.