L-P’s Chris Swayne, Princeton’s Drew Harp enjoy Shrine game experience

La Salle-Peru's Chris Swayne (center) poses for a photo with L-P coach Jose Medina (left) and L-P assistant Jason Hartman after the Illinois High School Shrine Game on Saturday.

Instead of having a 42-point playoff loss as his final high school football experience, La Salle-Peru graduate Chris Swayne got to go out on a more positive note.

Swayne put the Cavalier helmet on one more time Saturday and helped the Red team to an 11-7 victory in the Illinois High School Shrine Game at Illinois Wesleyan University’s Tucci Stadium in Bloomington.

“It felt great to end on a win instead of the playoff loss,” Swayne said. “It felt great to let other schools know L-P has the kids to compete.

“The game was so much fun. It was a very close game. It was a defensive game, so that meant I got to play a lot. We were rotating about every three series. I got a few tackles. It was a great all-around fun atmosphere.”

Princeton’s Drew Harp also played in the game, which brings together top players from across the state and across all eight classes.

Harp was on the opposite side as Swayne, playing for the Blue squad.

“There were a lot of kids from different teams,” Harp said. “It was nice to be able to represent Princeton one more time.”

While the Shrine Game is the culmination, there’s much more to being selected than playing one more prep football game.

Players spend the week on campus, going through two-a-day practices and participating in events related to the Shrine Hospital.

“Overall, it was a really good experience getting to meet some new people, make some new friends and just getting to play football was fun,” Harp said. “It was kind of like college, so it helped prepare me for leaving for college [at North Central College], which is good.”

Harp said the practices “were tough in that heat.”

“It was pretty draining, but it was super fun,” Harp said.

He also enjoyed meeting players from around the state.

“It was great because everyone there is good,” Harp said. “The competition level is high, so it’s a great way to gage how I’m doing. It was a great opportunity to play against great players from all over the state.”

Swayne said it was good to learn how different schools do things in their programs.

“It was nice to chat with guys and see how schools are different and see how some schools that succeed did it,” said Swayne, who will play at St. Xavier University. “It was great to stay in the dorms and get the college experience. The practices with all the guys from around the state were fun. It was a great week all around.”

In year’s past, players visited the Shrine Hospital in Chicago, but that visit was canceled because of COVID-19 protocols.

Instead, a patient from the hospital visited the players to share their experience, and the football players participated in a miracle softball game in which they helped Shrine patients.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t go to the Shrine Hospital, but they sent a kid down and he talked to us about his experience and how the Shriner’s helped him,” Swayne said. “It was a very inspiring story.

“We also got to play a miracle softball game with other Shrine kids. I was with Connor. He was a fun guy. It was amazing. It meant so much. It was inspiring to see the battles they go through every day, while we’re privileged to be able to play the sport we love.”