By KEVIN BURD, Hub Sports Journalist
KEARNEY – Parker Wise of Kearney High and Jake Masker of Kearney Catholic played their last high school football game on Saturday. Competing in the Nebraska Shrine Bowl, both players were chosen as one of the top seniors in the state.
While the Southern team lost 17-15, the end result doesn’t take away from what the athletes achieved.
“It was awesome,” Masker said. “We are one of the few people who have the opportunity to play football in the middle of the summer, so I was really lucky and blessed to be selected. I thought it was a great game and there was tremendous effort all around. Effort wasn’t an issue, it’s just that you gain some and lose some.
Each player wore their high school helmet, donning their respective team’s logo for one final game. Wise added additional significance to his own, marking all the milestones he had achieved throughout his time with the Bearcats.
“I have all the decals I collected from my sophomore, junior and senior years,” Wise said. “I ended up blacking out one side. I don’t know why, but it’s just something I wanted to do.
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Now officially done with his high school career, the 6-foot linebacker will stay at Kearney and play for the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He didn’t have to travel far for the Shrine Bowl, as the game was played on familiar territory.
“This place is my home,” Wise said. “I’ve spent many hours here since Kearney High played here and couldn’t be more excited to stay at Cope Stadium. … I’m ready for college and lucky enough to work with these guys in the weight room this summer to really embrace their program.
Masker will travel to Chadron State to continue playing football. The 6-foot-2 offensive guard has plans in place to improve throughout the summer before he arrives on campus.
“Definitely just working out, grinding and getting into the weight room,” Masker said. “I also want to get out there, do my conditioning, work hard every day and try to grow as a man.”
For Wise, the Shrine Bowl was a great opportunity to represent the Bearcats one last time.
“It was great to come back here with guys that I got to meet throughout the week and come out here and compete,” Wise said. “Representing Kearney High for the last time was just something special that I will never forget.”
Playing in the game itself meant a lot to both athletes. For Masker, the whole week has shown him that the Shrine Bowl is much more than football.
“It’s more than a game,” Masker said. “It was great to see all these people coming together and playing for a good cause. There’s a lot more going on outside the game and off the pitch.”