Hub senior Ben Harvey had one more chance to represent the Rochelle Township High School football program this past week, when he traveled to the Illinois Wesleyan University campus and participated in the 2021 Illinois High School Shrine Game at Tucci Stadium.
The annual All-Star event, which was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, brings the best high school players from around the state together for a weeklong list of events and activities, ultimately culminating in a Red vs. Blue showdown. Although Harvey was unable to play due to a shoulder injury, he had the chance to suit up and wear his Rochelle Hub football helmet one last time as his blue squad outlasted the red squad 28-20 in overtime.
“It was really cool to see the best players in the state and it was an awesome experience,” Harvey said. “It was fun to dress up and be a part of the team and it was a great game. I thought it was a great way to cap off my high school football experience.”
The 2021 Shrine Game activities kicked off on Tuesday, with players arriving for the first day of practices. While the annual visit to the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Chicago was canceled this year because of COVID-19, several of the traditional events including the Players Cookout with the Shriners of Illinois and the Central Illinois Miracle League Baseball Game, where players help bring the athletic experience to children with mental and physical disabilities.
“The Miracle League game and the cookout were my favorite parts of the week,” Harvey said. “It was really cool to play with some of the kids from the hospital. It was a really humbling experience and it reminded me how important it is to not take things for granted. It showed me the importance of enjoying what I have in my life because not everyone has those things.”
After the annual event banquet Friday evening, players geared up for the 2021 Shrine Game at Tucci Stadium on Saturday. For Harvey, who will be continuing his academics and his football career at Washington University in St. Louis in the fall, seeing the fast-paced action on Saturday provided a taste for what lies ahead as his high school career comes to a close.
“I’m excited to meet new people and have new experiences,” Harvey said. “I know it’s not going to be easy and I may not get much playing time in my first year, but I’m excited for the experience… Our team ran a spread offense with one back and we ran a no-huddle offense, which is a lot different from what I’m used to, but I thought I adapted pretty well. I learned how fast things will go at the college level and it was a great learning experience.”