Just after Rob Hammond was named North head coach for the 2019 Shrine Bowl Game he started receiving text messages from numbers he didn’t know. “Don’t blow this” and “keep the streak alive,” they would say. They were from other North coaches. The pressure to win a seventh straight Shrine Bowl was on.
“The pressure’s good, though,” Hammond said after Saturday’s game. “That’s why you want to coach, right? Because if you’re not coaching in pressure games then you’re not playing in big games.”
Despite a scrappy charge from the South squad to cut the deficit to just three points in the fourth quarter, the North successfully walked off Cheney Alumni Field with a seventh consecutive Shrine Bowl win, this one finishing 29-19 and baring a strong resemblance to last year’s meeting.
Just like in last year’s Shrine Bowl, the South got on the board first. Defense started it by holding the North to a three-and-out on the game’s initial possession and then the offense took over by marching down the field. Cokeville’s Bentley Johnson converted on fourth-and-1 from the opposing 20 to keep the drive alive before eventually finding Glenrock’s Ian Arnold on a rollout to his right for the 3-yard touchdown pass. The South could not, however, finalize its 10-play drive with a two-point conversion as that pass attempt fell short of the goal line.
The North’s offensive struggles early continued but the South couldn’t capitalize beyond that initial touchdown, giving the North’s highlight-reel caliber players time to find their footing.
Following three empty possessions, Buffalo graduate Luke Glassock used his feet and looked deep to power the North. Starting at his own 28, he found Big Horn’s Kade Eisele at midfield before scrambling on the next play and overthrowing his intended target. Eventually the Bison’s triple-threat quarterback connected with deep threat Kade VanDyken of Big Horn for a 40-yard touchdown pass that landed in VanDyken’s bread basket in stride. A bobbled snap on the extra point led to an improvised pass from Buffalo’s Aaron Thiele to Jackson graduate Keegan Butler for the two-point conversion.
“He doesn’t cave under pressure, he’s cool and he’s calm,” Hammond said of Glassock. “He just made plays and Kade VanDyken is an outstanding football player. The ball’s up in the air, it’s 50-50, and he just went up and got it.”
The South attempted its rebuttal by marching from its own 11 to the North 7. Evanston graduate Tyus Cornia served as the team’s workhorse on the drive, tallying two first downs on his legs alone. Arnold elected not to punt on fourth and instead ran up the left side of the field for a 22-yard gain and a fresh set of downs. Cornia ran up the middle on fourth-and-2 and initially appeared to gain the first on a second effort but the official measurement showed Natrona County graduate Chase Brachtenbach tackled Cornia in time.
That stop sparked the North’s scoring drive just before halftime. The North’s two NCAA Division I running backs — Sheridan’s Parker Christensen (Wyoming) and Kelly Walsh’s Brock Spiegelberg (Montana State) — both broke out 20-plus-yard runs as the offense quickly marched downfield. The North moved the ball so well that they needed just two plays to convert a 1st-and-22. Eisele scored from 4 yards out on the first play after a 15-minute injury timeout to take a two-possession lead. South quarterback Colton Caves of Wheatland could only kneel and take the teams to halftime with the North leading 15-6.
Momentum continued to favor the North through an opening three-and-out on defense and another touchdown on the next drive. VanDyken once again outran his coverage on the fly pattern but it was Upton-Sundance product Clayton Louderback who found him this time for the 43-yard score. VanDyken finished with 167 yards receiving, which set a new Shrine Bowl record. He was named the game’s Offensive MVP while Rawlins graduate and South standout Damon Taylor earned Defensive MVP.
“That surprised me, I didn’t expect that,” VanDyken said. “It was super cool to hear. There’s no better way to draw it up, that’s how I want to go out.”
That touchdown gave the North a 22-6 lead and the South went about its final attempted comeback. A pass interference call on a fake punt kept the South’s ensuing drive alive, giving way for the nine-play march into the end zone. Caves tip-toed the line of scrimmage and connected with a wide-open Dylon Case from Douglas for a 12-yard score. Two drives later Cornia finally got his deserved touchdown, having scored on his 19th carry of the game to trim the North’s lead to just three points, 22-19. That left the South a field goal away from tying the game with just over 8 minutes remaining.
“There’s no conventional way to beat the North when you have all the records and the streaks and the history and all these schools I don’t need to name,” South head coach Aaron Makelky said. “We took a bunch of scrappy guys and said let’s be a team. And they played their butts off for each other.”
The North’s weapons once again rallied to put the game away. Glassock and the high-powered North attack chipped away at the defense once again until the South completely lost track of Natrona County graduate Tehl Campbell, who caught Glassock’s pass all alone along the sidelines for a 7-yard score with 4:16 remaining to put the North up by 10.
“It feels good to hold up the trophy,” Hammond said. “This game isn’t about winning but it feels better to win than not.”
Added Makelky: “I’d rather lose with that group of guys playing that way than win with someone who didn’t play it the right way.”
NORTH 29, SOUTH 19
Saturday, at Casper
South 6 0 6 7 19
North 0 15 7 7 29
South: Ian Arnold 3 pass from Bentley Johnson (pass failed), 7:17.
North: Kade VanDyken 40 pass from Luke Glassock (Keegan Butler pass from Aaron Thiele), 9:10.
North: Kade Eisele 4 run (Glassock kick), 14.3.
North: VanDyken 43 pass from Clayton Louderback (Glassock kick), 10:26.
South: Dylon Case 12 pass from Colton Caves (pass failed), 6:46.
South: Tyus Cornia 1 run (Cornia kick), 8:07.
North: Tehl Campbell 7 pass from Glassock (Glassock kick), 4:16.