The first touchdown in the first football game played anywhere at any level since the COVID-19 pandemic struck was scored by a Tekamah-Herman player.
Luke Wakehouse did the honors at the 62nd annual Nebraska Shrine Bowl, giving the nation a little bit of itself back in the process.
Postponed more than a month due to the pandemic, the Shrine Bowl was played July 11 in Kearney.
“It was amazing, a great experience,” Wakehouse said of his time in Kearney. “The Shiners did all they could for us so we could play for the kids in the hospital. I’m happy they did.”
The Shrine Bowl is a fundraiser for Shriners Hospitals for Children. Through its network of 22 non-profit medical facilities across North America, children with orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and cleft lip and palate are eligible for care and receive all services in a family-centered environment, regardless of the patients’ ability to pay.
For all the pomp and circumstance associated with the game, which normally includes a parade through downtown Kearney and an all-star marching band, Wakehouse said the most unforgettable thing about the game, for him, wasn’t the game.
“It was who we played for—those kids,” he said. “We couldn’t go to the hospital the way teams usually do. But they set up a virtual tour for us. We were all in an auditorium and they showed us the tour on big screens. It was pretty impressive.”
Wakehouse’s North squad drove 59 yards, all on the ground, to score on its opening possession. The soon-to-be T-H grad capped the drive with a two-yard TD run at the 5:01 mark. The South countered for the final 30 points in a 30-6 victory. The North had just 67 yards of total offense after the first drive.
“It’s crazy to think I was the first TD since the Super Bowl and it might be one of three the rest of the year if they don’t get to play this fall,” he said. “It’s cool and it’s sad at the same time.”
Wakehouse said his coaches had hoped the game would be played so it could be an example for Nebraska and other states.
“They told us this game could open some eyes,” he said, “to show people that you really can have events like this.”
Although Wakehouse was named Tekamah-Herman’s outstanding male athlete for the 2019-20 school year after a record-setting season on the gridiron, the Shrine Bowl was the last football game he’ll play.
He said many of the other players on both squads were in the same boat.
“It meant a lot to me and to the others. You could tell,” he said. “We all knew it would be our last time on the field and we wanted to make the most of it.
“It was nice to be a part of it with so many amazing athletes.”
Wakehouse joined a select group of Tiger players who were tapped for Shrine Bowl duty. The others include Rick Lade in 1977, Randy Saxton, ‘78; Dan Mussack, ‘80; Chris Fleischman, ‘89; Jeb Mayberry, ‘91 and Dash Cameron, 2015. The other selectee, Ron Carson in 1983, could not participate due to a commitment with the Nebraska National Guard.
“I’ve been telling people, maybe we didn’t get a ‘W’ but I’m counting it as a win,” Wakehouse said. “ I was with a bunch of great players playing for a great cause. That’s a win in my book.”