KEARNEY — The North may have had some personnel changes from its original roster, but the linemen upfront were there from Day 1.
And it was their control of the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball that ultimately helped produce a 32-10 win over the South in the 61st annual Shrine Bowl football game before an estimated 3,500 spectators at Nebraska-Kearney’s Cope Stadium on Saturday.
The North had to replace seven players from when the teams were announced in February, three of which dropped out at the last minute before the teams began practice one week ago.
It didn’t seem to matter as the North registered its most lopsided win in the series since a 28-0 win over the South in the 1962 game.
“Our guys felt a little slighted because the impression was we didn’t have everyone we needed,” said North head coach Paul Limongi of Omaha Burke. “It gave our kids an edge and motivated them to do something special today.”
Behind a pair of first-team Super-Staters up front in Omaha North’s 6-foot-5, 333-pound tackle Mehki Butler and Creighton Prep’s 6-4, 285-pounder Ryan Bena, the North rushed for 186 yards and passed for 180 more, finishing with a 366-149 edge in total offense.
“We were very concerned with their physicality and size up front, especially defensively, and we knew it would be a challenge to run the ball,” said South coach Glen Snodgrass of York. “They forced us into our passing game early, and we never could get anything going through the air.”
The offensive player of the game, Omaha Roncalli’s Alex Rodgers, finished with 78 yards on 17 carries and also caught a 12-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to help the North pull away.
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“Those guys were a lot bigger than the linemen I had on my high school team, and they got after it,” Rodgers said. “They worked really well together all week.”
Cooper Jewett, a Nebraska walk-on prospect from Elkhorn South, had 50 yards on six carries and two TDs, the last one from 30 yards that produced the final score with 2:05 left in the game.
Gothenburg’s Trenton Harbur, who broke a 33-yard TD run in the second quarter, finished with 44 yards on just four carries. He also had a key play defensively when he sacked South quarterback Brayden Miller (Kearney) for a 14-yard loss on third-and-goal from the North 6 in the third quarter, forcing a Gabe Heins (Kearney) 37-yard field goal that cut the North lead to 18-10.
“To be honest, I thought we outworked them (the South) all week and it paid off today,” said Butler, a two-time, first-team Super-Stater who will play this fall at Iowa Western. “We lifted and conditioned every day. We were the stronger team today.”
Northwest’s Carter Terry, who replaced two-time Super-State quarterback Cedric Case on the roster, led the passing game by completing 13 of 20 for 152 yards and a pair of TDs. He found Bellevue West’s Shane Dailey Jr. for a 14-yard scoring toss to the corner of the end zone with seven seconds left in the half to give the North an 18-7 edge at intermission.
The South Dakota State-bound Dailey Jr. had five receptions for 65 yards, including a 37-yarder that set up Harbur’s touchdown run that made it 12-0 midway through the second quarter.
The North answered on its next possession for its lone TD of the game — a 54-yard bomb from Miller (an NU walk-on recruit) to Auburn Super-Stater Baily Darnell.