KEARNEY — There was no restraining the South after it gave up the first touchdown in the 62nd Nebraska Shrine Bowl, the nation’s first football game since March.
Its celebrations were as good as its scoring plays in a 30-0 finish to Saturday’s 30-6 win at UNK’s Cope Stadium.
The first one was the entire 45-man team rushing into the end zone to congratulate Husker walk-on tight end Nate Boerkircher of Aurora on his touchdown grab.
Later in the arsenal were two groups pantomiming “Row the Boat” — one along the sideline and another along the goal line — and Boerkircher’s favorite, “Spin the Bottle” in the end zone, after Tyler Palmer from Columbus Scotus finished off a 66-yard touchdown pass play.
“That was pretty funny,’’ Boerkircher said. “The coaches said we could celebrate, and our imaginations ran wild.”
South Head Coach Ryan Thompson, from Ashland-Greenwood, said the all-star game’s executive director, Dave MacDonald, approved of celebrations. During the high school season, those would have garnered 15-yard penalties.
“He said if you score, go ahead and celebrate, have fun, nothing’s going to happen,’’ Thompson said. “We just told the kids the score can’t get out of hand, or we’ll have to tone it down.”
South quarterbacks Aidan Oerter from Norris, to Boerkircher, and Evan Johnson from Adams Central, to Palmer, each threw touchdown passes as their team held a 319-126 yardage advantage over the North.
Almost half of the North’s production came on the game’s opening drive, a 59-yarder that Tekamah-Herman’s Luke Wakehouse ended with a 2-yard run.
“I thought those big boys they had on the line were starting to lean on us pretty good,’’ Thompson said. “We hadn’t seen that at practice. We didn’t have that type of size, but you could kind of tell we started to fight better about the 3-yard line and got a couple quick stops before they scored.
“We knew there would be a storm to weather, and the guys did. We made a little adjustment on their tight-end formation.”
Omaha South’s Alan Mendoza, brought in when team rosters were expanded from 37 to 45 players, made the game’s longest field goal in 15 years, a 51-yarder, after earlier booting 38- and 24-yarders.
“That guy, he’s been fun all week,’’ Thompson said. “He looked at us on the long one, and we already were thinking, let’s go.”
North Shrine coach Mark Macke from Lincoln High said the momentum switched with Boerkircher’s catch.
“We knew we’d be bigger but they’d be quicker,’’ he said.
Saturday’s game was the first in the U.S. since the XFL professional season was stopped by the onset of the coronavirus in the second week of March.
Ashland-Greenwood was represented by two players on Thompson’s South team.
Jacob Ludwig was named the Defensive Most Valuable Player for wreaking havoc on the North line and backfield. The former Bluejay had 10 tackles (four solos, six assists), 1 1/2 sacks for minus-11 yards, two tackles behind the line of scrimmage for 14 yards loss.
Ludwig’s football career is not over. He will attend Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D. to play football and major in business this fall.
Bluejay wide receiver Seth Novak was a late addition to the South roster who made significant contributions in the game. He had three catches for 28 yards and was a consistent blocker for the South team.
Ohio University football recruit Bryce Kitrell was selected to play in the Shrine Bowl, but had to opt out because he is already on campus and has begun training.
-Executive Editor Suzi Nelson contributed to this report.