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Gentry helps top talent represent mountains in Shrine Bowl

As the 2017 North Carolina coach, David Gentry made it a point to include as many players from the mountains as possible. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

The Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas is the oldest high school football all-star game in the country.

For years, however, the postseason spectacle has been absent of the stars from Western North Carolina. Enter Murphy High School coach David Gentry. As the 2017 North Carolina coach, Gentry made it a point to include as many players from the mountains as possible.

Initially, Gentry selected his own quarterback Joey Curry and Hendersonville wide receiver Tykel Landrum for the squad. Once injuries piled up across the state, Gentry added Tye Mintz from Cherokee as a defensive back and linebacker Frank Torres and offensive lineman Jacob Setterlind, both of A.C. Reynolds.

“We play really good football,” Gentry said of the teams in the mountains. “Cherokee is state champions. We’ve been state champions several times. A.C. Reynolds played for it, and Hendersonville’s always been tough.”

His efforts have not gone unnoticed by the players he selected.

“[It’s} very special,” said Torres. “I think the more players we got from Western North Carolina, the more support we can show back home to our community.”

For players like Torres, Landrum and Setterlind, the game can act as a last-ditch interview for college scholarships.

“It's my last chance to show the colleges what I have,” said Landrum, who owns every career WNC receiving record. “I think it'll be a great chance to get those colleges to look at me.”

Mintz has already verbally committed to Gardner-Webb, while Curry is weighing his options between baseball and football.

Curry is playing somewhat of a dual role for the North Carolina team. His position is listed as quarterback, but he’s also acting as a pseudo-translator for the old-school Gentry.

“People have to kind of understand his language,” laughed Curry. “I kind of help people around because he'll say some stuff, and people will be like, ‘What was that?’ Like today, it was ‘No Walk Wednesday.’ Did he just come up with that? We don’t know.”

With their high school careers over, this is a last opportunity for many players to strap on the pads and play the game they love. Mintz, although heading to Gardner-Webb, is relishing every second.

“It's just love for the game,” said the Braves quarterback, who just wrapped up his season Saturday with a 1A state championship. “I'll never stop loving it. I know it's not going to be here forever, so I give it everything I’ve got.”

None of the players, save Curry, will probably remember the offensive plays or defensive sets in a week. Gentry, though, is stressing other lessons he hopes his players carry with them for the rest of their lives.

“I just want them to remember the camaraderie of the players down here and what they're playing for,” he explained. “They're playing for those kids in the Greeneville hospital and the Shriners Hospitals all over this world.”

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