They’re all football officials who will volunteer their time and talents to officiate the 39th Kansas Shrine Bowl on July 28th at Emporia State’s Welch Stadium.
Away from the football field, Patton is the Honorable James A. Patton, Chief Judge of the Brown County District Court. On the field, he’s been an official for 31 years, and will be working his 5th Kansas Shrine Bowl. He says he keeps coming back to the Shrine Bowl for the love of the game. And he sees some parallels in being a judge and working as a football official. “They’re a lot alike”, he says. “In the referee area, you’re trying to make sure the rules are applied evenly and appropriately so that the participants have a fair shot at using their own talents to succeed. In the legal area, you’re providing a fair playing field for the litigants. You’re enforcing the rules and trying to give an intelligent, reasonable decision that’s fair to everyone.”
Doug Wiltfong is a loan officer for High Plains Farm Credit in Hays who will be working his second Shrine Bowl. He says officiating the game is an “awesome” experience. ‘You’re out there with 22 very good players”, he says. “On most high school teams, you’ll have one or two players that are head and shoulders about the others, but in the Shrine Bowl, you have good players at every position.” He says he’s excited about participating again. “You definitely have to bring you’re ‘A’ game when you work the Shrine Bowl”, he says.
Gary Davis has just completed his 30th year of teaching, the past 14 years in special education for the Southeast Kansas Educational Service in Greenbush. He’ll be working his 7th Shrine Bowl, and he’s already had some memorable moments. He was the “white hat” (the referee) who stopped the 2008 game in Emporia because of a lightning storm. “It was right after a touchdown”, he recalls. “We had lightning in the area, and it was my decision to stop the game and send the players to the locker room until the storm had passed.” His greatest memory, however, came from a routine coin flip in a game played at Pittsburg State. An 8-year-old girl, a Shrine Hospital patient suffering from brittle bone disease, was brought onto the field for the coin toss. “I’ll never forget meeting her and getting to know her”, he says. “That was special.”
All three officials say there are two things that set the Shrine Bowl apart from regular high school games. One is working with a 7-man crew instead of the usual 5-man crew assigned to high school games. The other is the quality of the players themselves. “We have finer athletes in the Shrine Bowl”, says Patton. “They’re faster, bigger, stronger”. Davis agrees. “The talent level is so much higher”, he says.
Other officials who have agreed to work this year’s game include Jim Blaauw, Topeka; D.J. Blackwood, Westmoreland; Don Clapsaddle, Erie; Wayne Converse, Manhattan; Shannon Haydock, Derby; Tom Hawks, Smolan; Larry Henshaw, Leavenworth; Bill Hilbert, Meridan; Rick Ruhman, Wichita; Mike Simpson, Hesston, and Lyle Walter, Waterville.
All Shrine Bowl events are produced and presented to benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children [SHC]. SHC is a health care system of 22 hospitals dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing pediatric specialty care, innovative research, and outstanding teaching programs for medical professionals. Children up to the age of 18 are eligible for care and receive all services in a family-centered environment, regardless of the patients' ability to pay. The 39th annual Kansas Shrine Bowl will be played Saturday, July 28th, 2012, in Emporia, Kansas, at Welch Stadium on the Emporia State University campus. Kickoff will be at 7:00 pm. Tickets and additional information are available at www.kansasshrinebowl.com or by calling 800-530-5524.