The Nebraska Shrine Bowl game will be broadcast on News Channel Nebraska TV on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. CT.

KEARNEY, Neb. — Monday’s lunch for the Nebraska Shrine Bowl players was just 24 hours after they moved in on UNK’s campus.

But based on their interactions, you’d think they’d been together a whole season.

NCN: "They probably didn’t need to walk behind you."

Trent McCain, Ord: “No they didn’t. They’re teasing.”

The best high school football seniors from across the state are split into north and south teams. Both squads have found an instant connection.

“It’s been a brotherhood bond that I’ve formed in one day," Henry Prochazka of Elkhorn South said. "It’s been a great opportunity to give back already and we’ve only been here for 24 hours.”

“Being around all these other guys that love football just as much as you, is just a great feeling to know that you’re not the only one,” Carson Murphy of Kearney Catholic said.

But the Shrine Bowl is about more than just football and friendships. It’s a fundraiser for Shriners Children’s. On Monday, the players learned about the nonprofit hospital from Nebraska patients.

“It’s really cool playing for something more than yourself and being around all these kids and helping them out," Murphy said. "Knowing that I’m not just playing for me, but I’m playing to help kids like that in need.”

They played — and competed — with the patients at the park.

“Luckily my hammy held up in those splits," Prochzka said. "Couldn’t quite do the front flip into the back bend, but I got a few moves in there.”

Nick Kreikemeier of Battle Creek is a Shriner Children’s patient. He was born without hands and was an honorary Shrine Bowl captain in 2018. He still makes a point to come back.

“I think that it’s good that people know about this stuff," Kreikemeier said. "I think I can help and give my own little spin on it.”

Preparing for Saturday’s game is a grind, with 12 practices over six days… but after day one, the players can’t wait to continue.

“Playing football with these guys, I mean look at them, there’s 42 of them over there that are best in the state right there," McCain said. "So, yeah, it’s going to be fun.”