Ready to test the best
For Jimmy Jones, the 66th edition of the East-West Shrine All-Star Game marks an appropriate jumping off point.
For Ross Parsons, it will be one final game before jumping into life after football.
Jones and Parsons will represent Scappoose High School in the game on Aug. 4 at Baker City. Each was named to the West team following their standout senior seasons for the Indians in 2017.
The 7 p.m. game at Baker High is a benefit for the Portland Shriners Hospital for Children. The teams will visit the hospital before heading to Eastern Oregon University in La Grande for a week of practices.
Participating players are 2018 high school graduates who played at Class 4A and smaller high schools.
Parsons, a linebacker, was the 2017 Cowapa League Defensive Player of the Year.
Jones, a running back/defensive back, was one of three Cowapa League Offensive Players of the Year last fall.
Scappoose football coach Sean McNabb has coached in the East-West Game three times. He is disappointed that this will be the final time his players can participate. Scappoose is moving up to Class 5A in the Oregon School Activities Association ranks in the fall. The all-star game for Class 5A and 6A players is the Les Schwab Bowl, played each June in Hillsboro.
The West players will gather on Friday in Wilsonville for physicals. Before heading to Eastern Oregon, the players plan to visit Portland's Shriners Hospital to meet patients and staff.
McNabb said the hospital visit is a highlight of an unforgettable week.
"It's a life-changing experience," McNabb said.
Jones and Parsons aren't sure what to expect, but each is excited for the opportunity.
"I was pretty happy to be picked to play one more high school game," Jones said. "It'll be fun."
For Jones, the week will be an early glimpse of his immediate future. The day after the game, he will report to Eastern Oregon University to begin his first college football season for the Mountaineers.
Jones has spent the past eight weeks preparing for college football by using a workout program recommended by Eastern Oregon coaches. That training has him confident he is prepared for a week of practices and the all-star game.
A standout linebacker and running back for the Indians, Jones doesn't know what his position will be in college. The 5-11, 205-pound Jones was recruited as an athlete, and said his goal is to earn a starting role somewhere this season.
"I've been told that it's a huge jump (to college football). The level of competition is obviously way higher," Jones said. "I'm ready to fight for a position and basically do whatever I have to start. If I can't start, then I'm going to have to work as hard as I can until I do."
Jones said he'll play wherever coaches put him in college. In the all-star game, he would like to play both offense and defense, but understands that all of the players will get playing time.
While Jones has focused this summer on preparing for college football, Parsons has been working for Aquatic Contracting, a Portland company that specializes on improving and restoring aquatic habitats.
He plans to attend Central Oregon Community College in Bend for two years and then transfer to Oregon State to pursue a degree in construction engineering.
Parsons' job has kept him busy. He has not prepared for football like he did a year ago, when his focus on the weight room laid the foundation for his big senior season at linebacker for the Indians.
He said being named Cowapa Defensive Player of the Year was special, a reward for the work he put in in the summer of 2017.
After growing up playing football, Parsons knows there will be a void when football season kicks off this season. The all-star game will be a nice final chapter of his football career.
"Once I start practicing, it will become a lot more real that this is the last time I'll ever play football," Parsons said.
The lasting impact of this game, though, goes beyond the football field.
"It's not just a football game," Parsons said. "There's a lot more to it, with all the kids and everything else that goes with it."
Baker City turns the East-West All-Star Game into a celebration that includes community events such as a pregame community barbecue.
Jones said he knows one acquaintance who had a change of heart and decided to play college football after playing in the East-West All Star Game. He expects a memorable 10 days.
"I've had a couple of friends play in it over the years, and they made a lot of friends, people they still talk to now," Jones said. "So I hope I can make some relationships that last awhile."