By: Richard Carter

Graduation is over and summer is nigh, which can mean only one thing to football fans–it’s time for the 78th annual Maskat Shrine Oil Bowl Football Classic.

The game pits the all-stars of East Texas against the best of the West.

Proceeds support Shriners Hospitals for Children across the nation.

Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. Saturday, said Oil Bowl Chiarman Gary Hill.

Head coach Kyle Story (Frisco Independence) chose players for the East, while head coach Danny Russell (Wichita Falls High School) picked players for the West.

“A hometown boy, Jason Lavender (Frisco), will be the offensive coordinator for the East,” said Hill.  Lavender was born and raised in Wichita Falls and has previously coached at WFHS.  “The game has a very good representation locally,” Hill said, with players chosen from Wichita Falls and Hirschi high schoools, as well as Burkburnett, City View, Bowie and Windthorst.

“They are good young athletes, and it’s also been my experience that they’ve been some of the nicest kids you’ll be around, very polite and well mannered.”

About 3,500 fans attended the 2014 game, which went up against the Wichita County Mounted Patrol Championship Rodeo.

This year, it will be up against the rodeo once more, as well as the last home appearance for the season of the Wichita Falls Nighthawks.

“We had an excellent game last year, and I think 2015 will be another good one.  We have some excellent kids coming and some very good coaches.”

The 78th Oil Bowl will lower reserve ticket prices from $15 to $12.  General admission remains $10.

The Shriners began the game in 1938 as an all-star contest pitting high school football grads from East Texas versus West Texas.  In 1945, the game shifted to all-stars from Texas versus Oklahoma.  In 2013, the Oil Bowl returned to the East Texas against West Texas format.

Players in the contest who later became professionals in the sport include J. C. Watts and Steve Largent, and a number of well-known coaches have helmed the game.

The head coaches arrived in town Monday, and players began practice Tuesday.  Two-a-days started Wednesday and Thursday with a morning practice on Friday.

On Friday, The athletes, coaches and trainers gather at 5:30 p.m. for a banquet at the Maskat Shrine Center with about 250 tickets available to the public.

The speaker will be Harli White from Lindsay, Oklahoma.  Her father is a race car driver, and at age 12, she decided to follow in his footsteps.

“She was driving a mini sprint that went over the embankment and capsized, the fuel tank ruptured and ignited. She was burned over 50 percent of her body.  She was taken to Shriners Burn Center in Galveston, and they took good care of her,” he said.

White graduated fro high school three years ago and has become a patient ambassador for Shriners Hospitals.

“She’ll be there with her mom and dad to tell her story and how Shriners benefited her.  She’s just as sweet as she can be, and is a spectacular young lady.”

Hill said there’s not a bad seat in the house for Saturday’s game

Tickets are available at the gate Saturday for the same price.

“We try to do two things with the game,” he said.  “We try to raise funds for the hospitals, and we try to provide good, clean family entertainment.  For $12 people can come out and probably watch the best high school football game they’ll watch all year.”