With less than one week to prepare, Bishop Ryan High School football coach Brad Borkhuis had the challenge of preparing 38 recent high school graduates for a full-contact game they haven't played since November.
Thursday provided a break from the Xs and Os and gave the 11-man football rosters an opportunity to understand the purpose for today's Shrine Bowl, which kicks off at 4 p.m. at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.
Players interacted with patients from the Shriners Hospital for Children - a facility in Minneapolis, specializing in care for kids with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and cleft lip and palate.
In previous years, players visited the hospital. This year, the patients came to the players in Mayville. Football challenges escaped the mind and natural instincts took over for many of the players as they played with their new young admirers.
"Like coach said the day before, we have to have an attitude for gratitude because a lot of these kids won't have a chance to play sports," Minot High School graduate Bryan Doerr said. "It was good to just give back to the community and realize that a lot of kids don't have the opportunity we have."
Doerr will play offensive tackle in the game, his last prep action before joining the Jamestown College Jimmies this fall. His former teammate Tanner Gust, a defensive end joining the Minot State University Beavers, is the only other former Magician on the West team. Gust signed footballs and played games - from T-ball to soccer - with the Shriners patients.
"It was fun," Gust said, "especially with those kids because it's good to give that kind of opportunity and know that we're here for more than to play."
Today the focus will shift to the field where West coach Borkhuis will try to lead players from throughout the western part of the state with the schemes he uses for the Lions.
"The biggest challenge is getting people up to speed," Borkhuis said. "Sometimes you're introducing a concept that is foreign, but that's balanced out by the skill level you have available. These kids definitely know the game so when you're asking them to do things they react extremely fast."
Borkhuis will employ a "high-octane" offense and let his defenders use their athleticism to be active and give the East team a variety of looks.
The West won last year's game 22-13. The 9-man game will be played at 7 p.m.
Tim Chapman covers the Vistas and Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.