Nolan Viergutz had it all the way.
The Lakeview High School linebacker dropped back into pass coverage on a third-quarter play during Saturday’s 60th Annual Nebraska Shrine Bowl and simply waited.
“I looked off the quarterback, then jumped the route,” said Viergutz, who played for the North squad. “It was probably the best feeling of my life.”
Alas, Viergutz’s interception went for naught in a 24-21 South victory after Pius’ Noah McCashlin booted a 50-yard field goal to provide the winning points in the fourth quarter, which was played on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Kearney.
But, for Viergutz, the game itself was simply the cherry on top of an entire week of festivities he and his teammates experienced, not the least of which was the visit by both teams to Nebraska Wesleyan University, where they interacted with groups of children who are Shriner’s Hospital patients.
“Just getting an opportunity to meet those kids was eye-opening,” said Viergutz, who will be attending and playing football at Hastings College in the fall. “It was such a cool thing.”
But, there was still a game to be played on this day and the South got off to flying start right out of the gate, scoring the first two touchdowns of the game for a 14-0 first-quarter advantage.
First, Dashawn Bates of Boys Town took a handoff from the 1-yard line and powered his way into the end zone, followed by a McCashlin extra point, making it 7-0.
It wasn’t long before the South added to its early lead, as Westside’s Caleb Schweigart hauled in a 31-yard scoring strike to double the lead to 14-0 at the 7:16 mark of the opening period.
The North finally answered when Bryson Krull of North Platte caught a scoring pass of his own at the 3:53 mark of the first quarter to halve the deficit.
Only two minutes into the second quarter, the North leveled the scoreline when Omaha North’s Milton Sargbah plunged in from the 4-yard line to make it 14-14.
Also in the second stanza, Schweigart added to his haul on the day, scoring on a spectacular 71-yard catch-and-run down the left sideline and the contest was a 21-14 affair at the half.
Midway through the third quarter was when Viergutz had his moment to shine, perfectly reading the play and picking off a South pass, then returning it 20 yards to give his side momentum, as they looked to take the lead.
But the North failed to capitalize on Viergutz’s effort and the South took over again.
The North finally tied the game again only nine seconds into the fourth quarter on a 41-yard touchdown reception by Wahoo’s Dylan Egr to deadlock the proceedings at 21-21 with 11:51 left.
After all the scoring had been of the six-point variety, it was McCashlin’s booming effort which split the uprights with 6:31 remaining, ultimately providing the final margin of victory.
But it was about so much more than the events which unfolded on the field, as the theme of the entire week was “More Than A Game.”
Family and friends of players on both sides came streaming down from the stands to join their heroes on the field for photos and a giant celebration which painted the true picture of what the entire week was all about.
Viergutz was joined by his family, along with several Lakeview teammates who had made the journey from Columbus for the occasion.
“It’s pretty cool how everyone came out to support me,” Viergutz said. “Also, my grandpa is a Mason, and after all I saw this week with what the Shriners do, I think I’ll follow in his footsteps.”
Scott Akanewich is the sports editor for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.