CEDAR FALLS — It didn’t take long for Creston/Orient-Macksburg’s Luke Neitzel to show the entire state why he was a good choice for the 41st Iowa Shrine Bowl.
A few minutes into the first quarter Neitzel snagged an interception that led to a South touchdown.
“He (the quarterback) started to roll a little bit so I just shaded over the top,” Neitzel said. “Then I just broke on the route.”
The South squad shutout the North 28-0 at the UNI-Dome for their third straight victory, tying the overall series at 20-20-1 since the Iowa Shrine Bowl started in 1973.
Neitzel was a two-time all-state defensive back for the Panthers and was one of the state’s total yardage leaders as quarterback.
He was selected to the South team as a quarterback by head coach Tom Wilson of West Des Moines Dowling Catholic, but most of the time players get bumped around to different positions during the short training camp prior to the game.
At camp, Neitzel said the team had two-a-days from Sunday, July 21, to Friday, July 26.
It was during these practices that the coaching staff decided to move him to the defensive side as a free safety for the bowl game.
“They had a few kids penciled in at safety that weren’t comfortable there,” Neitzel said.
He said the practices were a lot like high school. Most of the time players were split up to do individual drills to work on techniques for their specific position.
During the evening, the players, managers and cheerleaders had social events to build relationships with each other.
They had a mixer, went to a water park, watched a movie in the park and had a hog roast.
Neitzel is the third member of his family to play in a Shrine Bowl. His father played in the Nebraska Shrine Bowl in 1985 and his brother Nick played for the South during the 37th Shrine Bowl.
Teammate Collin Bevins also played for the South in 2012 as a defensive end.
While playing for the South Neitzel had the opportunity to play against several athletes who were former opponents.
Alex Reed of Council Bluffs Lewis Central, Sam Markham of Atlantic and Winterset’s Noah Kaldenberg were also a part of the South’s roster.
“It was really cool to hear the adjustments they see and read, getting to hear their football mind,” Neitzel said. “It was cool to meet guys from the area that you don’t know.”
Neitzel also said it was nice to play with guys that he has played against since middle school football.
All players that are selected to participate in the game are asked to raise at least $800 through sponsors. All profit from the event is distributed to The Shriner’s Hospitals for Children.
Neitzel’s sponsors, First National Bank, Iowa State Savings Bank, Greater Regional Medical Center, Family Shoe Store, M&M Motor, Dr. Dave and Gwen Buck, Creston Vision Clinic, Paul and Donna Pals and Joel Merri Emerson helped him raise approximately $1,400.
On the Friday before the game, the Shriners brought in 30 boys to hang out with the teams and run through the drills at practice.
“We got to hang out with them and play catch while we talked about what was going on in their life,” Neitzel said. “They would try to tackle and block us, and their parents got to be there to watch. Getting to see them smile was pretty cool.”
On game day the boys got to be on the sidelines with the players.
Neitzel said after each drive they would ask what it was like being out there and were constantly cheering them on.
Neitzel plans on playing basketball at Simpson, so the Shrine Bowl may be the last time he pulls on football pads.
Playing at the UNI-Dome was always a goal for Neitzel and ending his career there with a win is a rare opportunity for most Iowa football players.
The South squad, coached by West Des Moines Dowling Catholic’s Tom Wilson, also included ADM running back Jordan Grove and Dalton Gilbert of Central Decatur.