Zach Duncan, Times Record News
Published  Jan. 12, 2017

In the hopes of giving the Oil Bowl a shot in the arm, the Maskat Shrine turned last year’s all-star football game into a mostly all-local affair.

A bigger crowd at Memorial Stadium saw a competitive game that ended with a local kid (Henrietta’s Cody Fletcher) scoring the game-winning touchdown in overtime for his high school coach.

That’s a script the Shriners, who use the proceeds from the annual  game as a fundraiser for their children’s hospitals, can get on board with.

So when the coaches for this year’s 80th edition of the Oil Bowl were announced Thursday morning, it was no surprise that they returned to the same formula. All six coaches are area products.

Coaching the West will be Windthorst’s Chris Tackett, Jacksboro’s Brian Hodnett and Seymour’s Hugh Farmer. The East leaders will be Bowie’s Dylan Stark, City View’s Rudy Hawkins and Tioga’s Cody Patton.

It’s a great group of successful area Class 3A and 2A coaches plus Patton, who led his school to the six-man semifinals and is definitely well-versed in the 11-man game having spent a number of years at Holliday.

The easy part for these guys was spent Thursday going over some rules and deciding how to split up the Wichita Falls area. City View and Wichita Falls High School will be with the East, while Rider, Hirschi and Burkburnett are West-bound.

The hard part for these guys in the upcoming months is going to be finding enough committed players to round out both squads using the Childress-to-Gainesville restrictions thanks to a scheduling conflict.

That’s because the Oil Bowl was moved up a week to June 10, the same date as Childress’ Greenbelt Bowl. Back when it was Texas vs. Oklahoma or even when Metroplex athletes were heavily involved, it wasn’t much of a problem.

But these days the two storied all-star games compete for the same kids. In fact, more than a dozen teenagers played in both contests last season.

“We would love to have them on separate weeks, and that would be the hope going forward,” Maskat Shrine member Eddie Andrews said. “I’m really excited about this year.”

The reason for the conflict is understandable. The Shrine’s state convention happened to be set for the weekend of the 17th, so the Oil Bowl had to move up a week and the Greenbelt Bowl was already locked in for that date.

Childress had a senior-heavy team that went three rounds deep in the 3A playoffs. Jason Sims coached in the Oil Bowl last year and unquestionably would have sent some of his best guys to Wichita Falls for the week, but probably not at the expense of missing out on the hometown all-star game.

Likewise, coaches and high school football supporters from area towns like Quanah and Vernon will have to decide ahead of time where their allegiances lie.

Having said that, if these Oil Bowl coaches can grab commitments from most of the area’s top players and can pull some guys from locales like Brock and Krum, it should make for an intriguing matchup. Imagine Hirschi’s Roman Turner and Iowa Park’s Bowie Franks in the same backfield. Who’d want to miss that?

“We have a lot of great athletes in the area, and I’m looking forward to working with some of these guys that I’ve seen on highlights,” Hawkins said. “It worked out really well last year with kids being able to play in both (all-star games). It is what it is – everybody’s working for a cause.  Hopefully it works out for both groups.”

Just like the Maskat Shrine knew they had to make changes prior to 2016’s game to keep the Oil Bowl afloat, they also know it’d be beneficial to avoid the Greenbelt Bowl in the future. As for the present, they’d happily take the excitement that was generated last year again.