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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

North defense dominates South to win annual Shrine Bowl

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Shrine Bowl

Players get ready for the start of a play Saturday at the Shrine Bowl in Casper. The North defeated the South by a score of 37-3. 

The North defense rose to the occasion. And the offense, after being stopped just short of the goal line on the game’s opening possession, scored three consecutive touchdowns later in the half to take control of the game in Saturday’s Shrine Bowl in Casper.

The end result was a 37-3 victory against the South at Natrona County’s Cheney Alumni Field in front of a sun-baked crowd.

The North limited the South to 18 rushing yards on 26 carries, forced seven three-and-outs and came up with two takeaways – an interception by Natrona County’s Billy Brenton and a forced fumble by Gillette’s Logan Dymond – to avenge last year’s 34-32 loss.

“Those linebackers we had are big, they’re fast, they could run and they could tackle,” North head coach Trent Pikula of Thunder Basin said after the game. “And then we’ve got those two quick guys on the outside. Those are just five guys that are tough to block.”

The players Pikula was referring to – middle linebackers Colter Dawson of Jackson, Toran Graham of Powell and Will Miller of Gillette, along with defensive ends/outside linebackers Dymond and Daniel Gorman of Cody – were seemingly all over the field Saturday.

They helped establish the tone of the game early when Graham tackled Cheyenne South’s Braeden Hughes for a 2-yard loss on third-and-1 inside the South 10-yard line to force a punt. The North took over at the South 42 and finished in the end zone 11 plays later when Smith scored on a 2-yard rollout on fourth-and-goal. The touchdown gave the North a 7-0 advantage with 1 minute, 31 seconds remaining in the first quarter and helped erase the sting of coming up short on its first possession.

“It was positive because we went 80 (yards) on them and, between you and me, I scored,” Smith said about the opening drive. “After that we just let it roll.”

Pikula believed the defensive stop on South’s first possession was a sign of things to come.

“It just shows the character of the kids,” he said. “At that point you can get down on yourself, but the defense held them to a three-and-out and we came right back and scored. It was like that all day long.”

Brenton’s interception on the South’s ensuing drive gave the North the ball at the South 45. Smith connected twice with Cody’s Drew Trotter for 36 yards, including a 22-yarder in which Trotter reached back to grab the ball before being pulled down at the 1. Kelly Walsh’s Cameron Burkett scored the first of his two touchdowns on the next play for a 14-0 advantage early in the second quarter.

Another three-and-out for the South followed by a 20-yard punt return by Sheridan’s Carter McComb gave the North possession at the South 35. McComb later capped the seven-play drive with a 9-yard touchdown catch from Thunder Basin’s Ryan Baker.

The South finally crossed into North territory on its next possession when Wheatland’s Kade Preuit connected with Douglas’ Rylan Wehr for an 18-yard gain on a fake punt. But the North defense proved impenetrable once again, with Gorman tackling Lyman’s Chevy Fackrell for a 2-yard loss and Graham helping bring down Douglas’ Keltan Ewing after a short gain.

“I could trust every single one of those guys on the field to back me up so my job was easy,” Graham said.

The North’s ability to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball certainly helped in that respect. Even though the North failed to score the remainder of the half, Lander’s Ernesto Cabriales had a tackle for loss and Gorman and Natrona County’s Jake Sides sacked Rock Springs quarterback Brock Bider on back-to-back possessions as the North took a 21-0 lead into the locker room.

“The defense just bonded,” said Gorman, who was named the defensive player of the game. “I thought other guys deserved it more than me but I was lucky enough to get it. It’s a really great honor.

“This is unbelievable. It’s like sprinkles on ice cream. I love it.”

The North added another topping in the third quarter when Smith was flushed from the pocket but managed to deliver a perfect toss to Shoshoni’s Nathon Cousineau before going out of bounds for a 38-yard touchdown.

Smith was named the game’s offensive player of the game after rushing for a game-high 55 yards and completing 9 of 14 passes for 106 yards and a score.

“It’s an all-star game for a reason and luckily for me the offense was similar to the one we ran (in Jackson),” Smith said. “It felt like a Jackson game, but the Jackson players were on steroids.”

The South finally got on the board on a 25-yard field goal from Torrington’s Chase Miller late in the third quarter to make it 27-3. The South was forced to punt on its next possession when Dawson broke through the line and knocked down Bider’s pass attempt.

The North then turned the offense over to Burkett, who carried the ball three times for 39 yards, capped by a 6-yard touchdown at the end of the quarter.

Burkett and Smith, who combined for 106 rushing yards on 25 carries, did most of the damage on the ground for the North, but they had plenty of help as seven different players ran the ball. Lovell’s Amos Monterde, who was a late addition to the team, had eight carries for 44 yards.

“I was coming back from getting my hair cut and my teammate (Sam Cornia) called me and asked if I wanted to play in the Shrine Bowl,” said Monterde. “I got all my gear together and headed down Wednesday night. It was a really nice surprise.”

Worland’s Jorey Anderson kicked a 25-yard field goal with 9:16 to play to close the scoring.

And the North defense made sure to keep the South out of the end zone. Dymond ended the South’s final two drives with strip sacks, including a forced fumble on the final possession.

It was a fitting ending to an impressive defensive performance by the North.

“The last play, with the strip sack, was kind of the way they played all week long,” Pikula said.

With the victory, the North now leads the all-time series 26-19-3.

Follow sports editor Jack Nowlin on Twitter @wyovarsity.

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Sports editor

Jack Nowlin returned to the Star-Tribune in 2007 after eight years covering Michigan State University athletics. A Wyoming native, and a graduate of Jeffrey City High School and the University of Wyoming, Jack serves as the Star-Tribune’s sports editor.

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