When asked why they would sacrifice almost two weeks of their summer to put on the pads and sweat through drills, Jonathan Gilkey and Josh Caldwell both had the same answer:
They just love football.
“Love of the game brings me out here,” Gilkey said. “I can’t stop playing it. I just can’t sit at home and do nothing.”
So when Gilkey, a defensive back from Lee’s Summit High School, and Caldwell, a running back from Lee’s Summit North, were selected to play for the Missouri team in the 23rd annual Country Mart Kansas vs. Missouri High School Football All-Star game, they both jumped at the opportunity.
The game this year will be played 7 p.m. June 19 at Blue Springs High School’s Peve Stadium. And as in past years, the Missouri team will meet a Kansas squad in a battle for state-line bragging rights.
“I’ve always had a goal to play in the all-star game ever since I watched it my freshman and sophomore years,” Caldwell said. “When they called me and asked me if I wanted to play, I said yes.”
Caldwell and Gilkey have other incentives for playing in the game. For Gilkey, it’s an opportunity to maybe get some scholarship money. A first-team All-Suburban Big Six selection after helping Lee’s Summit to a 10-2 record and the Class 6 quarterfinals, Gilkey is planning to walk on this fall at Pittsburg State.
“The game is always a showcase of talent,” said Gilkey, who wants to study construction there. “I’d like to show Pitt State. They have the best education for me, so I’d like to get a scholarship there.”
Caldwell already has a scholarship to Missouri Western, but he also feels he has something to prove after his senior season came to a disappointing end. He rushed for 1,182 yards and seven touchdowns before an ankle injury and a disciplinary suspension cut into his playing time late in the Broncos’ 2-8 season. The ankle is fine now, and taking part in the game is a way for him to make up for some lost time.
“This is helping me get the touch back, get my feet right,” said Caldwell, who rushed for 2,885 yards and 19 touchdowns in his Broncos career. “I lost the last couple of games and I just want to come out here and win my last high school game.”
Greg Smith, the Missouri team’s head coach, says Gilkey and Caldwell both bring a lot to the team. And even though they played for cross-town rivals, they have been able to put that rivalry aside, as have most of the other players.
“Those guys both came in with great attitudes and gelled very quickly with their teammates,” said Smith, who is the head coach at Smithville. “Not to mention they’re both playmakers, and we’ll be looking for them to make plays for us.”
Missouri trails 11-10 (with one rainout) all time in the game. But it has won the last three, including a 36-8 victory in last year’s contest at Lee’s Summit North.
Which is yet another incentive for sweating it out on a hot June day.
“That’s the main focus right now,” Caldwell said. “All we talk about is beating Kansas.”
Tickets for the game are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and students with an ID. Youth football players who wear their jerseys or league T-shirts to the game will be admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult.
Tickets may be purchased at the gate or in advance online at www.kcprepfootball.org.