Forest Grove, Hillsboro-area kids represent at Les Schwab Bowl
It was a great night for football.
You don't hear that very often in June, but it was the case for the 2019 Les Schwab Bowl June 15 at Hillsboro Stadium.
The game, pitting the state's best senior talent into teams representing the north and the south, was played under clear skies and near 80-degree temperatures. Following a quick start, one which led to a 13-0 lead, the South hung on as the North battled back to secure a 33-28 victory in front of 6,511 spectators.
The South was led by the quarterback combination of Wilsonville's Nate Overholt and Churchill's DeMontre Thomas, who combined for 389 passing yards and four touchdowns, along with receiver Noah Page from Eagle Point, who finished with six receptions for 224 yards and three touchdowns. Page scored on passes of 34 and 72 yards on two of the South's first three possessions, then from 50 yards out on their fourth with 2:14 remaining in the first quarter.
The North was led by Lake Oswego quarterback Jackson Laurent, who completed 16 of 29 pass attempts for 181 yards and two touchdowns. Liberty's Brad Norman did his part spelling Laurent, completing six of 11 attempts for 75 yards and a 13-yard touchdown pass to Southridge's Kevaun Eady in the first quarter.
Norman was one of four Hillsboro/Forest Grove-area athletes to participate in the game, including running back/receiver Aidan Maloney and offensive lineman Diego Rodriguez of Liberty, along with Forest Grove tight end Dominic Funk. All played in the game, and all were equally excited to be back on the field.
"It was amazing," said Norman, who is also a standout lacrosse player for the Falcons. "Lacrosse just isn't the same as football. You don't get that same Friday night feel. This was just an awesome opportunity, although I would've liked to get more run (in the game)."
The senior — who's headed to Linfield in the fall — said there was a real competitive atmosphere about the game, and that the week of practice not only helped build that rivalry, but also a bond with the former foes he now called teammates.
"The tension was real with this team," Norman said. "We have a nice rivalry with the south, and these guys are like my brothers, so going out on the field with them was amazing."
Funk — who caught one pass for 21 yards and will be playing for Pacific University this fall — also spoke to the bonding experience, and was particularly excited to have a chance to represent the Vikings one final time.
"I feel so blessed to be provided with this opportunity," Funk said. "I didn't know I was going to be able to participate until late, but when I found out I jumped at the opportunity. It's so awesome to be able to represent my school again."
After four first quarter scores, things screeched to a halt as the North scored the second quarter's only touchdown when Kehdon Fletcher caught a six yard TD from Laurent with 57 seconds before half, cutting the lead to 20-15. The teams alternated scores twice in the second half, the last being a second Fletcher touchdown to start the fourth quarter and cutting the lead to 33-28. But neither team could muster much the rest of the way, and the game ended with three Norman incompletions and a Laurent sack with just 33 seconds on the clock.
Despite the loss and a fair level of competitive tension between the two teams, all anyone could really talk about afterward were the relationships built as a result of the week spent together at Pacific University. The teams practiced twice a day in preparation for the game, and throughout the week players spent time in the community with various nightly activities and service projects, including hospital visits and mentoring at-risk youth.
Liberty's Rodriguez — who is also going to Linfield — had forgotten how much he missed the game during the months since the season ended.
"It's one of those things where you don't really know how much you missed it until you get back out there," he said. "Coming out with these guys that I played against for years and hated for years, I was thinking I wouldn't like them. But some of the bonds I've made this week are incredible."
And what was his favorite part?
"Seeing how many of these guys are exactly like me," Rodriguez said. "Mike Mercep (Lake Oswego), my roommate, I played against him during the season and the whole time we hated each other. But he's a great guy and playing with these guys all week was the best."
Liberty's Maloney had three catches for 31 yards, along with two carries for six yards before leaving in the first quarter with an apparent knee injury.