Cottage Grove’s Cooper Ladd and Nate Farrell and Yoncalla’s Ted Wickman went on the road last week to be a part of the 66th Annual East West Shrine All-Star football game.
The game, that features top players from the 1A through 4A classifications, helps raise money for the Shriners Hospitals for Children around the country, including one in Portland that the players visited.
“We’re doing something for these children and we knew that we’re making a difference and also getting to enjoy the game of football while we’re at it. It’s an environment that you can’t really replicate,” said Ladd.
Ladd, who was first team offense and defense in 4A this past fall, and Farrell, first team offense, were staples of the Cottage Grove championship winning team this past year and were members of the East team. Wickman, who was named an alternate for the game, was on the West team. In the week leading up to the game, the teams gathered in La Grande where they prepared for Saturday.
“It was hot and we practiced two times a day but it was so fun to be there with all these great athletes. And you’d look around and everybody was the best on their team so there were no weak spots,” said Ladd. “And I’m not saying [Cottage Grove] had any weak spots, clearly we were the champions, but it was just kind of cool to be in that atmosphere.”
While Ladd and Farrell were 4A champions, it was a different experience for Wickman coming from 1A.
“Never played in front of that many fans for a football game so that was pretty special. Just wanted to do my own thing and wanted to represent Douglas County and Yoncalla and the community that supported me,” he said.
On the day of the game, the players were part of a parade and a barbeque that featured family, friends and past participants. But then it was game time.
“Guys definitely were getting prepared pregame. It’s nice because a lot of those guys are going to play college football and that was a different experience for a lot of people. And it takes a lot of hard work and you can’t just like mess around and get there,” said Wickman. “Watching them prepare for a football game was something that I honestly take some tips away from. There wasn’t a lot of conversation, the guys are just focused and getting ready, it’s a battle.”
Wickman, who was at wide receiver instead of his usual spot at quarterback, and the West team were up 8-6 before the East team was able to turn it on late and run away with a 20-8 victory.
“I was at inside linebacker Nate was playing tackle… and oh my goodness was it fun. They had me blitzing all over and I was filling holes and it was so great to be back in the pads and making hits,” said Ladd.