Backfield tandem and close friends, Sours and Schultz, lead Lisbon to 1A football title game
Most football players would probably spend the day before one of the biggest games of their lives resting up and focusing on being ready. Lisbon quarterback Hunter Schultz and running back Jordan Sours didn’t have that luxury last week.
One day before their North Dakota Class 1A state semifinal football game last week, the senior duo spent the whole day on four-wheelers moving 600 cattle from a pasture where they had been for the summer into a field where they will spend the winter.
“We had practice at 8 in the morning that day and then we went out to the pasture and chased them down the highway,” Schultz said. “And that took pretty much all day.”
If spending the prior day chasing cattle wore them out, it didn’t show as they each had standout performances in the Broncos 44-20 semifinal win over Velva. Sours rushed for 297 yards and five touchdowns while Schultz rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown.
On Friday, they will go from the pasture to the turf of the Fargodome as they take on Langdon-Edmore-Munich in the Dakota Bowl in the Class 1A championship game. The Cardinals won the last two state titles and have a 36-game winning streak. They ended the Broncos season in the state semifinals last year.
“Everybody’s been doubting us all season,” Sours said. “We’re just constantly trying to prove people wrong. We graduated so many good linemen last year — two of them went on to play college football, plus another great blocker. They all had a big part in getting us where we were last year. Everybody thought we wouldn’t be as tough with a young line that couldn’t hold up to what we had last year. But those guys have been great and it’s been fun seeing them prove everybody wrong.”
That line hasn’t had any trouble paving the way for Sours and Schultz. Sours has rushed for 1,688 yards and 25 touchdowns this season, while averaging 10.6 yards per carry. And Schultz has rushed for 859 yards and 11 scores and has passed for 332 yards and four touchdowns.
“They’re both great kids who have done a lot for our program offensively, defensively and helping build it back to where it is right now,” said Lisbon coach Joe Gerding.
Schultz and Sours have been friends since Schultz moved to Lisbon when they were in the fifth grade. Sours says they do pretty much everything together. Schultz rents land from Sours’ uncle for his cattle, and the two of them spend a lot of time there.
“I like helping out,” Sours said. “Whenever they need help, I’ll go out there and help them. It’s something different every day.”
In return, Schultz is happy to help Sours with his race car. He competes in dirt track races two or three times a week in the summer. He raced in his uncles’ old hobby stock car until this past summer, but moved up to modifieds this year. Both his dad and uncle used to race, but now they both just help him out with his car.
“I won a few times in hobby stock,” Sours said. “But modifieds is a lot faster class. There’s people that have been doing that for 50 years. I won one race so that’s something to build off of.”
Labeling either member of the Broncos backfield duo a quarterback or running back is actually a bit of a misnomer. On most plays, Schultz and Sours line up next to each other in shotgun with either as likely to receive the snap as the other. On any given play, one of them could be a runner, passer, lead blocker or receiver.
The scheme creates uncertainty in the defense, forcing them to identify who receives the ball on every single play. It gives Lisbon a numbers advantage in the running game. On running plays in most standard offenses, the quarterback’s duty is finished as soon as he hands the ball to the running back. But since the Broncos can snap the ball directly to either Sours or Schultz, that frees the other up to get out in front and be an extra lead blocker and play 11-on-11 instead of 10-on-11.
“Not many offenses ask their quarterback to lead block for their running back and their running back to lead block for their quarterback,” Gerding said. “A lot of quarterbacks probably wouldn’t want to do that.”
It’s not a problem for Schultz and Sours though. They relish the opportunity to block for each other and try to win football games.
“I don’t really pass all that much,” Schultz said. “So blocking is kind of like my other job besides running the ball, I guess. In our offense it’s just all about being physical.”
Gerding and his assistant Mark Moss implemented the scheme about five years ago after learning about it at a coaching conference. They thought it would be perfect for the personnel they had at the time. They had a bunch of athletes who could run the ball, but no true quarterback.
“We’ve taken it and put our own little spin on it and made it our own,” Gerding said. “It’s taken a lot of buy-in from the kids. It’s not flashy or pretty. We’re not going to be throwing 50-yard go-routes all the time."
Buying in has paid off as the Broncos improved each of the last four years. The Broncos went 0-8 when this year's seniors were freshmen. They went 3-5 the next year, then 10-1 and made it to the state semifinal last year. And this year, they’re undefeated going into the state championship.
“Seeing the older kids not care as much — it just made us, me and Jordan and our class want to be better,” Schultz said. “We talked about how we wanted to be good and we worked harder. And the class above us was really dedicated too. It’s a lot more fun when everybody cares.”