Sherwood players help North win at Les Schwab Bowl

by: DAN BROOD - AT THE CENTER OF THINGS -- Nick Rowlands, a 2013 Sherwood High School graduate, gets ready to snap the ball as the North team's center during Saturday's Les Schwab Bowl. The North got a 21-14 victoryHILLSBORO — For a trio of Sherwood High School graduates, it was a familiar feeling.

And, it was a good feeling.

The three Bowmen — Joseph Balfour, Cristian Morris and Nick Rowlands — got to celebrate one more time on the turf at Hillsboro Stadium, as they ended their high school football careers in winning fashion.

Balfour, Morris and Rowlands, all 2013 Sherwood grads, helped the North team post a 21-14 victory over the South at the Les Schwab Bowl, an all-star football game featuring many of the top graduating Class 6A and Class 5A players from around the state, held Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium.

Of course, Hillsboro Stadium is where the Bowmen won Class 5A state championships two of the past three seasons, including a 46-20 win over Marist last December in the 2012 state title contest.

“This is like our home away from home,” Rowlands said with a smile after the game.

“This was awesome. It feels great winning here again,” Morris said. “We were hyped all week. Winning this game was important to us. We were talking the whole week. We were all about the North.”

With the victory, the North team improved to 32-30-4 in the all-time series for the all-star game.

by: DAN BROOD - QB JOE -- Sherwood grad Joseph Balfour, in his one play at quarterback during Saturday's Les Schwab Bowl, gets ready to hand the ball off.“Yeah, the guys really wanted to win,” said Sherwood coach Greg Lawrence, who was the head coach for the North squad. “These guys are all competitors.”

But there was more to the game, and the week leading up to the contest, than just getting the victory. There was the opportunity to create new bonds and friendships — even with some heated rivals.

“Who would have thought that Wilsonville guys would be so cool,” Rowlands said not long after he, Morris and Balfour posed with Wilsonville’s Tanner Shipley, Ryan Walsh and Gunner Pollman for a postgame photo. “You play against your rivals, and talk smack, but now we played together for a common cause. It was a cool deal.”

“I never thought I’d be homies with guys from Wilsonville,” Morris said with a laugh. “We all had the best chemistry. This was the best week.”

“We were rivals, but we were all working together,” Balfour said. “It felt like we all knew each other a lot longer than just one week.”

For Balfour and Rowlands, the Les Schwab Bowl marked the end of their scholastic football careers.

“It was my last football game, and it was a great way to go out,” said Balfour, who will play college baseball at Saint Martin’s University. “It was a lot of fun.”

“I had a blast,” said Rowlands, who will study business at Oregon State University. “It was a great way to finish.”by: DAN BROOD - HAPPY BOWMEN -- Sherwood High School coach Greg Lawrence, who was the head coach for the North team, hugs Sherwood graduate Cristian Morris following Saturday's Les Schwab Bowl.

Meanwhile, Morris is going on to play college football at Idaho State University.

“I’m real excited about that,” he said. “And this was a great way to get ready.”

All three of the Sherwood players seemed to play a part in the North’s win on Saturday. Although, Rowlands had to prove some possible doubters wrong even before he took the field.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, Rowlands, who played at center on the North offensive line, appeared to be undersized compared to his fellow offensive linemen, and opposing defensive linemen, in Saturday’s contest.

“The first day I arrived, other players were asking what position I played,” he said. “I told them center, and they said ‘no way.’ No one believed me until we got out there and started playing. Then I think they all respected me.”

Rowlands rotated at center throughout the contest, helping the North compile 423 yards of total offense in the victory.

“I think I did OK,” Rowlands said. “Snapping in the shotgun was nerve-racking. I had to snap the ball, and then worry about those 300-pounders.”

“Nick is rat tough,” Lawrence said. “He never missed a beat and did a great job.”

Balfour played mainly at outside linebacker, although he did take one snap at quarterback.

“I’m not used to taking on guys that big,” Balfour said of lis linebacking duties.

by: DAN BROOD - TURNING THE CORNER -- Sherwood grad Cristian Morris (left), playing for the North team, gets away from South linebacker James Abbas, from Redmond, in Saturday's Les Schwab Bowl. Morris played at a wing spot on the North offense. He ran the ball three times for 11 yards and had one reception for four yards.

“You definitely have to change your style here,” Morris said. “Everyone is fast.”

In the back-and-forth contest, the North took a 21-14 lead when, with Rowlands playing at center, the team capped off a six-play, 76-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by Oregon City’s Mitchell Thompson, coming with 9 minutes and 34 seconds left to play in the game.

As the game entered the final stages, the South had the ball deep in its own territory with one last chance to get a score.

On the game’s final play, South quarterback Kamerun Smith, of Marist, threw a swing pass to 6-5, 245-pound tight end Mike Ralston of Sheldon. Balfour came flying over to make a tackle.

“He was big,” Balfour said. “I just grabbed a leg and held on for life.”

And, after that play, the Sherwood trio were celebrating at Hillsboro Stadium again.

“Nick and Cristian are my best friends,” Balfour said. “It meant a lot to play together one last time.”

“I’m emotional now,” Morris said. “I love these guys. We had one last hurrah.”

Shipley was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

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