Victory bowl

The 2017 Victory Bowl baseball and softball games will take place 6 p.m. Friday in Belton. The volleyball and football games are Saturday in Waco at 12:30 and 6:30 p.m. respectively.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte, file

When the curtain falls on the Texas high school football season each December, that usually marks the end for most seniors. They’ll never suit up and play another high school football game.

The participants in this weekend’s Super Centex Victory Bowl are the lucky ones. They get to press the reset button on their careers, and get one last chance to suit up and represent their schools.

“Out of everybody in my school, I’m the only one from my school to be chosen,” said Midway defensive back D’Unte Brown, who will suit up for the blue team. “I’m really honored and blessed to be chosen to play in this. It’s just really great to play in one more high school game before I go off to college.”

China Spring lineman Ty Harris echoed that statement. Unlike Brown, he’s joined by one of his high school teammates in the Victory Bowl – fellow lineman Chris Oliver, who will also be a college teammate of Harris’s at Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Harris said he views the Victory Bowl as an apprenticeship of sorts. Given the caliber of player he surrounded by on the red roster – and those he’ll be opposing on the blue – he figured it served as the perfect bridge to college football.

“I feel like it’s going to give me and Chris more of an idea of how it is in college, having this big diversity of athletes who are going to different colleges,” Harris said. “It just gives us an idea of how to get ourselves out there socially and athletically. … Really with this group of guys, going with us and against us, we’re still seeing that same level of physicality (that we saw in district play), and that experience is going to transfer over to college.”

Crawford ranks as one of the top small school powerhouses in Central Texas, if not the state. But the Pirates aren’t usually stocked with 275-pound behemoths. So Crawford linebacker Lucas Steinkamp, a member of the red team, looked around at his new teammates and felt doubly blessed.

“It’s a different atmosphere, but it’s a great atmosphere to be around different people, new guys, and make some new friends,” said Steinkamp, the 2016 Super Centex Defensive Player of the Year.

The Victory Bowl, in its ninth year, is an outreach ministry of the Heart of Texas Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Besides providing the opportunity to suit up and compete again, the week offers athletes and cheerleaders a chance to participate in Bible studies, community service projects as well as fun activities like a pep rally and a pancake eating contest.

But, naturally, everyone wants to win, too.

“I think we’ve got this one. I think the blue team has got this one,” La Vega’s Sir Morgan Loudd said.

Added Midway’s Brown: “When I’d seen all my guys in the blue team locker room, I thought, ‘We’ve got a team.’ I’m just going to treat it like I did my other team. They’re all my brothers. We’re on the same team, work hard and do what we do.”

Nevertheless, the blue-red rivalry is more friendly than fierce. Players from both teams gathered together on Wednesday for a joint team photo, and Steinkamp said it’s a thrill just to get the chance to play in the game, whatever the outcome might be.

“Just to be able to play with some kids from other schools, to be able to play one more high school game, I love it,” Steinkamp said. “There’s nothing like high school football in Texas.”

The Victory Bowl baseball and softball all-star games are slated for 6 p.m. Friday at Mary Hardin-Baylor University in Belton. University High School will host the volleyball game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, and the action will culminate with the ninth annual football game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Waco ISD Stadium.

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