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All-Stars play for the kids in Shrine contest

MT file photo

For three Rogue Valley prep football players, participating in Saturday's45th annual East-West Shrine All-Star Game is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Phoenix's Sean Escobar, Cascade Christian's Marty Maurer and St. Mary'sForrest Rupnick have been practicing this week at Eastern Oregon Universityin La Grande in preparation for Saturday's 7 p.m. kickoff at Baker City.

The three players have worked in 100-degree heat learning the East team'soffensive and defensive schemes, have soaked up the camaraderie of beingaround the state's other elite Class 3A-2A-1A players and have receivedthe satisfaction of helping those less fortunate.

The emphasis is that we're playing for the kids, said Phoenix'sEscobar, who toured the Shrine Hospital for Children in Portland last Friday.I'm meeting a bunch of great guys. I'm having a blast. It's definitelya lifelong experience.

Escobar, a Skyline Conference first-team all-conference defensive back,should see action on both sides of the ball. He will start as an outsidelinebacker and rotate in as a wide receiver and tailback on offense.

East squad head coach John Schrolec of South Umpqua is familiar withEscobar after facing him in the Skyline Conference the past couple of years.

He's real versatile, Schrolec says. I saw him go 50yards up the sideline right by me. I wanted to trip him.

Escobar was an alternate for the game but was placed on the Shrine teamwhen state Class 3A offensive player of the year Billy Montgomery of Henleypulled out. Mont-gomery has been busy playing baseball with the KlamathFalls Falcons.

Escobar, who has been timed in 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash and isthe fastest man on the East squad, doesn't care where he plays.

I just love football, says Escobar, who plans to continuehis football career at Southern Oregon University in the fall. I'llsnap on punts. I'll do whatever they want me to do. I'm just glad to behere.

Another player who feels fortunate playing in the game is Maurer, a BigFir League all-star with Cascade Christian.

You're playing for a great cause more than anything, saysMaurer. The Shrine Hospital doesn't charge for anything. We're usingthe talent we are blessed with to help some other people that weren't sofortunate.

Maurer, who will leave Monday for fall football practice at Oregon State,relishes the opportunity to play receiver in the East's pro-set offense.

It's going to be fun for a change to be in a position I shouldhave been at, says Maurer. Instead I was stuck at quarterbackfor three years.

Schrolec hopes to take advantage of Maurer's size ­ 6-foot-5 and215 pounds ­ as a pass-catching target.

It might be a good situation having a big, strong guy against somesmaller defensive backs, says Schrolec. We want to spread thefield and open it up a little.

For Rupnick, a 6-2, 220-pound first-team Big Fir League offensive tackle,the Shrine tilt will probably be his final football game. Rupnick will attendOregon Tech next year; the Owls don't have a football team.

He's picking up the offense real quick, says Schrolec. Atthis point, we plan to use him at offensive tackle, but he might see someaction on defense.

Rupnick says winning the game is secondary to the entire experience:It's great knowing you're helping little kids in the hospital. Alongwith that, you're playing with great players from around the state.

Marty Maurer, a quarterback at Cascade Christian High, will play receiver for the East team.