Red Devils shine in lopsided Shrine Bowl loss

North beats South 45-7; Uinta County plays well

By Don Cogger, Herald Sports Editor
Posted 6/12/24

Though Saturday’s 51st Annual Shrine Bowl in Casper could be described as a Tale of Two Halves, it almost seemed the outcome was dictated by the weather.

The yearly All-Star contest …

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Red Devils shine in lopsided Shrine Bowl loss

North beats South 45-7; Uinta County plays well


Though Saturday’s 51st Annual Shrine Bowl in Casper could be described as a Tale of Two Halves, it almost seemed the outcome was dictated by the weather.

The yearly All-Star contest — pitting the state’s top seniors from the North against their counterparts in the South — had all the makings of an instant classic in the game’s first 30 minutes. From big plays on special teams, to defensive players wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks, to receivers on both teams showing why they were chosen by their coaches, while the sun was shining on Cheney Alumni Stadium, it was anybody’s ball game.

After giving up a safety in the game’s opening seconds (you read that right), South’s defense proved stout, led by Evanston linebacker Cohen Morrow — who finished the game as South’s defensive point leader — and the game’s defensive MVP, East’s Colby Olson, who had three of his game-high five sacks in the first quarter.

After trading punts, North got on the board with the first touchdown of the contest when Sheridan’s Dom Bennettini hit his Broncs teammate Dane Steel for a 27-yard touchdown; the extra point made it 9-0.

South cut the lead to 9-7, following a 8-play, 61-yard drive that culminated in a 5-yard touchdown run by East quarterback Cam Hayes and an extra point by Cokeville’s Jack Dayton.

South’s momentum was short-lived, as North QB Bennettini — eventually named the game’s offensive MVP — scored on a 1-yard keeper with under a minute to play in the half to make it 15-7.

Neither team was able to get anything going to start the second half, though fans were bracing for anything.


Cue the lightning

With just under 10 minutes to go in the third quarter, and the North still clinging to a 15-7 lead, Mother Nature decided to hedge her bets. A bolt of lightning from the rapidly-approaching cloud cover caused an automatic game delay that stretched for over an hour, and included a torrential downpour and a hail storm that turned the field from green to white. The bleachers were evacuated, and players were herded back to the locker rooms to wait out the storm.

When the game resumed, the South seemed poised to grab the momentum, forcing a punt, then a turnover on North’s first two possessions. But any momentum gained by Miles Porwoll’s pick of North QB Darrick DeVries in the end zone was quickly extinguished on South’s first play from scrimmage — an interception on a deflected pass that gave North the ball back on the 12-yard line.

A DeVries to Steel connection four plays later made it 22-7, and the wheels officially came off. North went on to score three more times on offense — a 30-yard field goal by Connor Moss (Cody), a 7-yard QB keeper from Dom Bennettini (Sheridan) — who replaced DeVries in the fourth quarter — and a 10 yard touchdown catch by Powell’s Trey Stenerson late in the fourth quarter, when the game was already out of reach. The North also scored a touchdown on defense, a 57-yard pick-six by Lovell’s Jared Mangus.

When the dust settled, North had earned a 45-7 win — and a measure of redemption for last year’s 27-24 loss.

It was a tough way for the players on the South roster — most of whom had just played their final game of organized football — to end their high school careers. That said, a quick look at the South sideline, and there weren’t dejected looks and hanging heads; it was all smiles, hugs, handshakes and laughter.

The players — after a week of bonding, and taking part in activities with ambassadors from the Shriners Children’s Hospital — realized the game wasn’t about them.

“The thing I’ll be most proud of is, we got to help many kids with problems that are bigger then football,” Morrow said, after the game. “‘Strong legs run so weak legs may walk,’ is what the Shrine Club goes by, and that shows everyone about what the game is all about.”

South receiver and former Red Devil Kai Barker said meeting the kids was the highlight of what was a very memorable week.

“It was super humbling to meet with them and to connect with them and to know what we were playing for,” he said. “It’s a game where you go out and play with more than just wanting to win. You are playing for a whole different purpose.”

South running back Brady Roberts agreed.

“It’s a great experience and it is eye opening,” he said. “I approached this game just to have fun because it’s for the kids.”

Raegan Holbrook — director of Marketing and Communications for Shriners Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City — said he was “blown away” by the level of support exhibited by all involved with this year’s Shrine Bowl.

“The highlight of the week for me was consistently hearing the ‘why’ all this is still happening during the Wyoming Shrine Bowl’s 51st year: to keep serving kids,” he said.


Uinta County Players shine

While the 51st Annual Shrine Bowl may not have ended in the South’s favor, the players representing southwest Wyoming definitely made their presence felt.

Uinta County was well-represented on the South roster, with seven players: Cohen Morrow, Kai Barker and Brady Roberts from Evanston; Carson Eardley, Fletcher Black and Coby Jones from Mountain View; and Morgan Hatch from Lyman.

“It’s been a cool experience so far, all the guys have really bonded together,” Morrow said during Media Day Friday.

Morrow started at linebacker for the South, and had a game-high 22.5 defensive points; the Black Hills State commit was in the running for defensive MVP, though with five sacks, South teammate Colby Olson was easy to make a case for. Lyman’s Hatch was fourth on the South team in defensive points, with 15.

“The game experience was great,” Morrow said. “It was a lot faster than what everyone was used to. But to be able to play at that stage with great talent was just fun, and something I’ll never forget. And I enjoyed being able to go out with those guys [Barker and Roberts] and to be able to put the pads on for one last time.”

Asked if he thought the Uinta County players represented well, Morrow said his teammates definitely turned some heads.

“I feel now that the state has an idea what the southwest brings to the table in football,” he said. “We all deserve respect like the bigger places across the state.”

Barker started at wide receiver for the South, and also handled kickoff duties. He caught seven passes for 47 yards on the day (second on the team), though his toughest catch ended up not counting — a pass across the middle he had to go up and get, and got hammered for his troubles. Jokingly asked after the game if he had some words for his QB for hanging him out to dry, Barker said it’s all part of the game.

“I told him [Torrington QB Bryce Hager] I would take a hit for the team if it came down to it,” he said. “Did it suck? Of course it did. But that’s football. I’m more mad that we got called for holding, so it was for nothing.”

Despite being woefully underused at running back (though you won’t hear him complain), Roberts was still the second-leading rusher on the South roster with eight rushes for 24 yards; he also caught a pass for 30 yards, calling it his highlight of the game.

“I caught a pass on a play I was supposed to be blocking,” he said. “I saw an empty field, and just ran and yelled, ‘Ball!’”