When Ben Johnson asked Midway football coach Jeff Hulme if he wanted to coach in the Super Centex Victory Bowl, his answer was quick and affirmative.
Anything associated with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes was right up Hulme’s alley.
“I said absolutely,” Hulme said. “I was in the FCA when I was in high school, and that whole organization is just another avenue for kids to be around like-minded individuals in regards to sports and their faith, and that’s a good thing.”
Hulme will coach the Blue team while Crawford’s Delbert Kelm will coach the Red team at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Waco ISD Stadium.
The football game will be preceded by Victory Bowl baseball and softball games at 6:30 p.m. Friday at UMHB, and a volleyball match at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at University High School.
Now in its 11th year, the Victory Bowl features graduating senior athletes from Central Texas high schools.
“It’s kind of a lull in the athletic calendar, so there’s a little bit of a window and it’s something to cheer for and watch and be a part of,” said Johnson, the Heart of Texas FCA director. “It engages so many communities in Central Texas. Everybody’s got their representative, so that’s awesome.”
Kelm was as an assistant coach under former Copperas Cove Jack Welch in the Victory Bowl, but is now looking forward to serving as a head coach.
“It’s a great experience for the kids,” Kelm said. “It’s a chance for kids to get out of their safe element and their school, and get out and mingle with kids they’ve either played against or read about. It’s a good cause, and Ben (Johnson) does a great job organizing this thing.”
For some players, the Victory Bowl is a segue from high school to competing at the college level. But for others like former Midway player Parker Nall, it’s a last chance to play organized sports.
For all of the athletes, playing in an FCA-sponsored setting is important.
“I’m going to Arkansas just for school,” Nall said. “I just want to play for the glory of God and bring others to him. Faith has always been a big part of my life and it’s driven me to play. I’m definitely looking to see what we come up with and hopefully win.”
Moody’s Canyon Hughes is headed to Howard Payne to play volleyball, but is excited to get a last chance to team up with some area players from bigger high schools on the Red team.
“A little school like Moody, we don’t have very much to choose from,” Hughes said. “Other schools have so much to choose from, and it’s awesome they’re picking all of us and we were chosen. It’s going to be fun.”
The Victory Bowl has been around long enough for there to be family legacies. Former Belton safety Denver Holman, who will play football at UMHB, wanted to play after his older sister raved about her experience. Sydney Holman is now pitching for the Baylor softball team.
“She told me how fun it was and how you get a closer bond with everyone you meet,” said Denver Holman, who will play for the Red team. “It’s going to be different. I’ve been playing at Belton my whole life, and this ought to be fun. We’re going to throw something together and see if we can pull out a dub.”
Since the coaches met with their players for the first time Wednesday, neither Hulme nor Kelm will have time to put together a complicated game plan.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Hulme said. “We’re going to try to line you up right and let you play football. They’re here for a reason. No. 1, they’re great character, great integrity kids. But they also know how to play the game of football. My job is not to try to re-coach these young men because they were all coached by great coaches.”
The football game features a diverse group of players ranging from six-man up to Class 6A.
On the blue team, Walnut Springs six-man player Seth Schilling will play with Midway Class 6A players Nall and D’Ante Thomas. On the Red team, Abbott six-man player Paxton Miller will play with Temple Class 6A player Russell Hogue and Copperas Cove’s Tommy Connell, Jaylen Brown and Trevor Troy.
“It’s a chance for some of those six-man kids to play 11-man football for the first time,” Kelm said. “They (six-man players) see it on TV, but don’t get a chance to play, so they’ll see how it goes.”
For the coaches, it’s a big thrill to coach some different players they’ve heard and read about. Hulme is looking forward to coaching the La Vega trio of Jaelyn Maladdie, Jared Rogers and Ericq Speight as well as players from other schools.
“Mixing all the smaller schools with the bigger schools will be interesting,” Hulme said. “We had lunch together (on Wednesday) and I was bounding from table to table getting to know the kids and where they’re from. ‘Hey, what’s your name and what do you like to be called?’ They’re excited to be here and it is exciting to get to coach new people.”
Hulme is looking forward to walking up and down the sideline with no pain after having both hips replaced in recent months.
“I had the right hip replaced in February and the left in April,” Hulme said. “I’m doing great. The pain I was feeling the last few years walking up and down the sideline is gone. I feel like a new man.”