In 36 years as the Head Coach at West Branch, Butch Pedersen has checked off many boxes of accomplishment. Being named a head coach in the Iowa Shrine Bowl was not one of them. That is, until July 20th, 2019.
From the ISB website, here is a brief description about the game:
"The Iowa Shrine Bowl Game is an all-star football game between selected pre-college football athletes on each side of a north-south dividing line in Iowa.
The players are selected by a process of nomination by coaches, balloting by state-wide sports media professionals, and official invitation from a representative of the Iowa Shrine Bowl.
The Iowa Shrine Bowl produces this game each year. The game brings honor and recognition to the players, their schools and their communities. It has also been an effective tool in raising money for The Shriner's Hospital For Children."
If you hear Pedersen tell it, the game is by far the secondary reason of the week.
"These kids need our help, both physically and through donations." He explained. "To see a kid who cannot walk without assistance it just breaks your heart. It was good to give back in any way we could."
To date, the ISB has raised over $2.6 million for the Shriner's Hospital system. That is a small amount compared the costs that go into running the facility...but definitely not a small amount in the eyes of the kids who receive the gifts.
"When you visit with these kids, you see the joy they have in their lives." Pedersen said. "They may not get to play football or other things, but these kids offered so much hope and happiness to us when we visited with them."
As for the game itself, the longtime Eastern Iowa coach was the lead man of the South team. On that team, was West Branch's all-time record holder in passing yards, touchdown passes, attempts, and completions. 2019 WBHS graduated Beau Cornwell was selected to the team.
Something that was of great pride for the coach.
"Having one of your players be selected for the game is an honor." says Pedersen. "Beau is a tremendous player who will do big things at Monmouth College. I was blessed to be able to coach him and all of the great kids. So many of them will have great college football careers."
Final Score: South 24, North 13.
Coach Pedersen ends his Shrine Bowl Head Coaching career undefeated. You only get to be the head coach once and an assistant coach once (1993). Those boxes have now been checked.
He wants people to realize, again, how blessed the football program and community of West Branch are to have so many kids selected to play in the game.
"We have been really lucky to have some great student-athletes at West Branch in my time." Pedersen said. "Something like 25 kids (it's actually 29) have played in this game since I began as the head coach. That's pretty terrific."
Now, it's onto the 2019 season of West Branch football. It all begins with camp next week.
Coach Pedersen feels this team has many strengths.
"Defensively, we return 9 kids who started last year." He exclaims. "(Jeff) Bowie and Tanner (Lukavsky) are going to be big players for us. Jack Robertson, Cameron Howsare, and I could name more - these kids are hungry."
In the end, the Shrine Bowl and the experience will be something Coach Pedersen will definitely remember.
But the fact that there was so much West Branch Football flavor in the game is something else that truly stood out.
"To have that experience is something very few coaches have." Butch explained. "But to have so many Bear people involved was awesome. My grandsons, Kooper and Zavier, were ball boys and my son in law Danno was there to help him out. Kelby (Burger) and Drake (Berry) were managers for the team. My son, Lance, was on the headset helping us in the booth. The chain gang from West Branch was the chain gang for the game. It was like a Friday night in WB."
Also in attendance were many of Coach Pedersen's family members, including his wife Jenny, daughter Kari, as well as his youngest son Kipton and his wife Alisha. Grandchildren include Dominic, Dakota, Kason, Myah, and Peyton Pedersen.
Coaching Staff and Support Staff members: Kevin Braddock, Jason Pedersen (and his son, Brandon), Tyler Bailey, and Jason Miller.
Butch wants to make sure all of those people realize how special it was to him that they made the trip to the game.
"This is a football community and for all of those people making the trip to see us it means a lot."
Moving forward to the fall of 2019, what box does Coach Pedersen hope to check off? Even in season 37, with 305 victories, three state titles, 26 playoff appearances, 20 district or conference championships, and now one Shrine Bowl coaching victory.
The only thing on his mind is football and day one.
"I am looking forward to the first day of camp. That's it."
1-0 each week. Hopefully.
To read more about the Iowa Shrine Bowl game, visit their website: https://www.iowashrinebowl.org/