Bobcats amazed by speed of all-star game
Their high school football careers are over, but BLHS graduates Justin Ishmael and Dan Renfro both received another chance to step on the football field as high school athletes in last week's annual Metro Classic All-Star football game.
In one final high school game before moving on to college, Ishmael and Renfro both started for the Kansas team, which took on Missouri in a battle of the best players from each side of the state line.
In the weeks leading up to the game, which Kansas lost to Missouri 28-14, both Bobcats got to know some of the best players in the area and both said they had a blast building more friendships on the football field.
Ishmael, who received a scholarship to play football at Central Missouri State University, even got the chance to play along side a future teammate and roommate in Olathe South's Andy Viebrock, also a CMSU signee.
In the Metro Classic, Ishmael lined up at guard and Viebrock lined up next to him at tackle on Kansas' offensive line. Every once in a while, Ishmael said he glanced at Viebrock and saw glimpses of the future, even if they were backwards.
"He lined up right next to me," Ishmael said of his future teammate. "It was great getting to play with him, but in college it'll probably be the opposite. He'll probably play guard and I'll play tackle because he's a lot taller than I am."
Playing next to Viebrock was just one of the many highlights of the game for Ishmael, but as has come to be expected of him during his career at BLHS, Ishmael treated the game with more of a competitive edge than anything else.
"I watched the film of it and I was disappointed with the way I played," Ishmael said. "I was particularly disappointed with my pass blocking. I like pass blocking, I just need to get better at it. But seeing that has made me want to work harder because I know there isn't any room for excuses in college."
Not only is there no room for excuses at the next level, there also is barely any room to blink. BLHS coach Paul Brown, who was in attendance at the game, said it was nice for Ishmael and Renfro to play a game at the pace that the Metro Classic was played.
"This gives them just a little taste of that higher speed and higher paced game that they're both going to run into at the next level," Brown said. "Once they adjusted to that speed I think they both played very respectably."
Ishmael agreed with Brown and said the speed of the game was like nothing he had ever seen.
"It was a lot quicker game than we're used to," Ishmael said. "That was the thing that stood out the most, the speed. This was kind of a minor warm up of what we're going into and it was great to get a taste of that."
Renfro signed a national letter of intent to play football at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo.
Renfro started the game on the defensive line and he said once he adjusted to the speed of the game, he played a solid game.
"With everybody playing at that level, it definitely hypes your level of play up and your adrenaline starts pumping," Renfro said. "It was a blast."
BLHS had two players play in the Metro Classic in 2001, and a few years before that a couple other Bobcats had graced the field at the all-star event. Brown said having players picked to play in the Metro Classic is a huge honor for the players themselves and that it says a lot about the direction of the football program at BLHS.
"It's always great to get guys in this game," said Brown, who is a member of the executive committee of the Greater Kansas City Coaches Association, the group that sponsors the game. "It shows we're doing good things and it shows that our program can produce that caliber of player."
While Ishmael critiqued himself on every play and Renfro searched for a Missouri player to hit on every occasion and Brown sat back with a smile, all three said the best part of the game was that it was fun. The week and a half of practice time before the game and the game's four quarters were all an experience that won't soon be forgotten.
"It's a huge honor, but it's also just a lot of fun," Brown said. "Both Justin and Danny told me that they enjoyed the week of practice a lot more than they anticipated because of the guys they were playing with. And really, that's what this game's all about."
It's a good thing because, despite a decent second-half comeback attempt the Kansas team fell to Missouri, 28-14, ending a streak of Kansas victories.
"It's tough to be known as the team that ended the streak, but it was still a lot of fun," Ishmael said. "I'm done with high school now. Even though the future's going to be hard, it's going to be a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to the challenge."