2018 East/West Shrine game in St. Petes

Posted In: Sports, ,   By: Richard Curry

25th February, 2018     0

This game is one game I look forward to photographing every year & this one didn’t disappoint. On the Sunday a week before, the game the players visited the kids at the Shriner hospital. They come in with some trepidation, but leave with joy in their hearts.

Quinton Flowers, stud QB at USF was overwhelmed. Quinton: “I met Crystal Molina (19), she battles spina bifida, I told her my coach said “all dreams are real. You came here & you know it, they are real.” Ohio State QB JT Barrett (this year’s Pat Tillman award winner) watched a young girl fight her way up a hill in leg braces. “It’s powerful. We always went on hospital visits & maybe we made a day brighter, inspired people. Today, I’m inspired.”  Joel Lanning, Iowa State star “what is that really?” For us, it’s playing in the NFL. For some of the kids here, it’s walking across a room. We all start from different places.”

This year Leigh Dittman (17), is the ambassador for the Shriners hospital. She is in wheel chair, and suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bones) but nothing stops her. She has helped raise $1.4 million this year. She has undergone 13 surgeries & had 40 fractures, but fights on.

Alec Cabacungan, the little boy selling adorable blankets on TV for the Shriners has the same disease, having gone through 70 broken bones. His dream came true for this game, when he got to broadcast it. After the game, I got to shake his hand and told him he was my TV hero. Got a big smile from him.

Before the game a fan asked me to photograph his son. The kid was Shane Tripuka, a punter from Texas A&M. Shane’s dad Chris played college football, his Grampa Frank Tripuka was the Denver Broncos first-ever QB, & Kelly Tripuka is his uncle (led Notre Dame in scoring 4 straight years, 2 time all-star, who once scored 56 pts in a game.) Shane Tripuka had 6 punts for 226 yards.  Shane will be drafted by the NFL. On a sad note Quinton Flower’s missed the game to attend gramma’s funeral. Death keeps following this poor man. The game’s national anthem was sung by a young girl who had undergone speech therapy for two years at the Shriners hospital - she was terrific.   

The State of Michigan was represented by two players: Brian Allen Michigan State & Joe Ostman CMU. Brett Favre, Willie Roaf, & Gary Huff were inducted into the East/West Shriners HOF for 2018.  The West beat the East 14-10 on game winning 34 yard pass from Texas Tech’s Nic Shimonek to Houston’s Steve Dunbar - great catch.

The duff of the day: Ohio State QB JT Barrett who was 5 for 13. His only TD pass was for 4 yards to Marcus Marin of Slippery Rock (yes slippery rock).  My two favorite plays were made on circus catches by Daurice Fountain (game MVP) of Northen Iowa. He should also be a NFL draft pick.  Natrell Jameson from Wisconson was the other MVP, both players born in Wisconsin.  




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