AMES - For one final night, some of Iowa's best football players got to don their school helmets on the gridiron.
Four former area preps played in Saturday night's Shrine Bowl, won by the South squad, 40-7, inside Jack Trice Stadium.
"It's the best feeling in the world. I didn't play my best," said Marshalltown's Ty Steffensen, "but knowing that I can be a high school football player for one more night was awesome."
T-R PHOTO BY TRAVIS HINES
West Marshall’s Dalton Ferch, playing for the South, cuts through a hole during the Shrine Bowl on Saturday night inside Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. The future Iowa State walk-on helped the South to a 40-7 victory over the North.
"Being out here with the best of the best in Iowa was a great experience," he added.
Steffensen, who will play next year at Southwest Minnesota State, was joined on the South by West Marshall's Dalton Ferch, who will call Jack Trice Stadium home this fall as a walk-on member of the Cyclones.
"It was a lot of fun, the whole week, just hanging out with everybody," said the running back. "It's exciting, especially under the lights. Kind of let it soak in for awhile, but then it's back to work in a couple days."
Gladbrook-Reinbeck's Parker Bolt played safety and North Tama's Blade Bradley right tackle for the North, among whose coaching staff included new Grundy Center head coach Brent Thoren.
"I don't know anything about the South, but we have phenomenal kids," said Thoren, who won a Class A state title with North Tama in 2010. "We may not have won the game, but our kids are the epitome of what the game is about.
"They are class all the way through, they kept fighting, they were positive. They're just competitors."
Future Iowa State defensive back Charles Rogers stole the show as the South's quarterback, throwing two touchdowns to Cory Crnkovich of Woodward-Granger while also showing off his speed.
Rogers and Ferch shared the backfield as part of the South's first and third quarter units.
"We thought it was kind of cool," said Ferch of playing with his future teammate, who was named the South's offensive MVP.
The South jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, but the North added the only points of the second frame on a pass from Maquoketa's Chase Coakley to Mitch Bonnstetter of West Bend-Mallard.
It was all South after halftime, however, with the squad putting 30 unaswered points on the scoreboard.
While the night's game was the main event, the players spent the whole week practicing together and becoming familiar the Shriners' cause.
"It was fun and we got to learn a lot about the Shriner's hospitals and what we were playing for," noted Steffensen.
It was an opportunity not lost on the coaching staffs as well.
"It's a lot of work, but the opportunity to be around these kind of kids is second to none," said Thoren, coaching in his first Shrine Bowl. "They're great kids, great athletes and a lot of them are going to go play on Saturdays, but to have those kind of kids and to see what kind of people they are, they're second to none."