By Richard Carter
June 17, 2016

The 79th annual Maskat Shrine Oil Bowl Football Classic will celebrate the talents of the best regional graduating senior football players while helping to support Shriners Hospitals for Children across the nation.

It’s a win-win game for players, football fans and the families of children in need.

The event once again will pit the all-stars of East Texas verses the best of the West.  It kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, said Oil Bowl Chairman Yoshi Fukasawa, who took the reins after previous Oil Bowl Chairman Gary Hill died in April.

“Gary had been involved with the game for over 15 years and been in charge for more than five years.  He was a great mentor and a dear friend.”

“Gary came to me with this (the game) two years ago, and I worked with him in 2014 and 2015,” he said.  Fukasawa said game attendance in 2015 was good, playing to around 3,30 fans.

“My goal is 5,000 to 5,500 this year,” he said.  “Not only are we focusing more on local talent, but we added three additional pieces to the weekend.”

The coaches, he said, selected more local players than they have in the past.

“It’s about a 180-mile radius from Wichita Falls.”

It’s still East verses West, but they hope more family and friends of players can attend the game in 2016.

Head coaches for the East team are Ritchie Pinckard of Callisburg High School and Byron West of Henrietta High School.  For the West, head  coaches are Aubrey Sims of Iowa Park High School, Jason Sims of Childress High School and Frank Johnson of Holliday High School.

The coaches selected recent graduates from high school.  For fans who enjoy intercity rivalry, Wichita Falls High School and Hirschi will play for the West, while Rider graduates play for the East.

In addition to the game, Fukasawa said the Maskats have added a 7-on-7 football tournament that starts at 8 a.m. Saturday at City View Stadium.  Ten teams made up of high school students will play, and it’s a double-elimination tournament.

The championship game for the 7-0n-7 tournament will be at 5 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium.  Each of the games will be 40 minutes long.

Along with the tournament, the Maskats have added a Youth Football Camp and Youth Cheer Camp for ages 5 to 14.  Two Top of Texas football coaches and two Nighthawks football players will run the football camp.  The varsity cheerleaders of City View, Iowa Park and Petrolia High Schools will run the cheer camp.

“We added the tournament and camps this year to get the game to be more than just a game on Saturday night,” Fukasawa said.  “We want it to be more of a weekend with more community involvement.  Next year we might add a 5K run or a softball tournament in addition to the youth camps and the 7-on-7 tournament,” he said.

Organizers have canceled the Oil Bowl Banquet this year.

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

Famous players in the contest, who later turned pro, include J. C. Watts and Steve Largent, and a number of well-known coaches have  coached the game.

Tickets are available at the gate Saturday for the same price as advance tickets.

“The game is always a good time,” he said.  “It’s good to see so much local talent.  We’ve had a really good crop of athletes coming out of Wichita Falls and the surrounding area.”