KEARNEY, Neb. — Size didn’t matter to the South All-Stars in the Nebraska Shrine Bowl all-star football game.
Facing a North offensive line that on paper dwarfed them, the South’s defensive line stepped up to the task in Saturday’s 30-6 South victory at UNK’s Ron and Carol Cope Stadium at Foster Field.
“We knew that they were big, but we knew that we had more heart and that we were faster, so all we had to do is just get around (them) and make a play,” said South defensive lineman Jacob Ludwig of Ashland-Greenwood, who was voted the Defensive Player of the Game.
Ludwig stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 220 pounds. While facing guys across the line 5 inches taller and 55 pounds heavier, Ludwig turned in a performance that included 10 total tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and two tackles for a loss of 14 yards.
Things didn’t start out well for the South defense. The North did what everyone expected from a team with superior size on the offensive line. It marched 59 yards in 12 plays to score the game’s first touchdown.
“At the beginning, we kind of struggled. They scored on their first drive, so we just made some little adjustments, came together as a family, and we got the job done,” said Ludwig, who plans to play at Augustana in the future.
The opening drive accounted for almost half of the North’s 126 total yards in the game. The North didn’t sustain a drive past midfield again.
“It was really just a mental thing. Just toughness. Just coming out ready to hit that hit them in the mouth and just play more physical,” Ludwig said. “The first drive, they were just running in between the tight ends, just right up the middle. We made some adjustments, with the ’backers coming downhill and just hitting them hard.”
Throughout the week of preparation, the South knew that it was the smaller of the two teams. But it was confident that it had an advantage with speed.
“That was kind of our strategy — just play fast, play physical and just hit hard,” Ludwig said.