The East and the West held their first practices in Pittsburg for the upcoming Shrine Bowl, the East at the intramural fields and the West at Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium on Thursday night.

Both squads have morning and afternoon practice sessions Friday before the big game Saturday night (7:05 p.m. kickoff). The teams practice Friday morning at the same locations as Thursday night, then switch for the afternoon.

The East features five players from the Southeast Kansas League in Pittsburg's Ethan Paul-Davis, Fort Scott's Brendon Blackburn, Chanute's Trey Ellis, Independence's Courtlan Hayes and Coffeyville's James Newton, as well as two players from the Tri-Valley League in Caney Valley's Kenny Brown and Cherryvale's Tristan Thornton.

Pittsburg holds the distinction of 53 selections, third best overall, and 10 consecutive years of having at least one Shrine Bowl selection.

Silver Lake's Dailin Kruger and Lyndon's Joe Walsh have experience playing against local teams — Kruger, for example, in the Class 3A playoffs last season against St. Mary's Colgan at Hutchinson Field when playing on just one good knee did not hold Kruger back.

Head coach Chris Stewart (McLouth) and assistants Mike Gillman (Lawrence Free State), Joel Applebee (Mill Valley), Murray Zogg (Coffeyville), Harry Hester (Cherryvale) and Rod Stallbaumer (Lyndon) make up the East coaching staff.

Northeast's Joseph Polhlopek returns for a second stint as East manager.

Pittsburg State recruits Greyson Tempel (Garden City) and Garrett Larson (McPherson) practiced for the first time at Carnie Smith. Larson played on the offensive and defensive line at McPherson and Tempel was a standout running and passing quarterback for the Buffaloes of Garden City.

The West's coaching staff includes head coach Steve Martin (Wichita Northwest) and assistants Nate Wollenberg (Newton), Terry Harrison (Wichita Heights), Steve Werner (Buhler), Greg Koenig (Beloit) and Scott Moshier (Meade).

The West had won seven consecutive games until the East broke the spell with a 22-19 victory. Pittsburg's Spencer Bernhardt — who redshirted this past season at Pitt State — made a key late end zone interception for the victors. Bernhardt picked off West MVP Zeke Palmer (Bishop Carroll).

The West won the first three Shrine Bowls played in Pittsburg — 27-13 in 2002, 10-9 in 2006 and 45-28 in 2010.

The football game Saturday night is the centerpiece event of a week of activities — all geared toward raising funds and awareness for the Shriners Hospitals for Children. "Strong legs run that weak legs may walk." Since 1974, the Shrine Bowl has raised over $2.5 million.