Matt Lipski appreciates the laid-back feel, the team get-togethers at a bowling alley and movie theater, the dorm life at Portland State.

Matt Lipski appreciates the laid-back feel, the team get-togethers at a bowling alley and movie theater, the dorm life at Portland State.

He enjoys all of that, but as he prepares for tonight's Les Schwab Bowl, he's also serious about the business at hand.

"As the South squad, we all know that the North has taken the last couple, and they seem pretty confident that they're going to take this one, too, and we're looking to change that," he says. "Everyone here wants to win, and that alone is pretty good motivation. You don't want to be embarrassed on a big stage like this.

"I think everyone is going pretty hard. We want to get a victory here."

Actually, the North has won three straight and four of the last five heading into the 61st annual 6A/5A all-star football game, which pits the top seniors from the North against their counterparts from the South. Lipski, a 6-foot-9, 320-pound offensive lineman from Ashland High, hopes to help the South reverse that trend.

Lipski arrived in Portland with the rest of his new teammates Monday night and started preparing Tuesday with a pair of two-hour practices. He'll play mostly left tackle, a switch from the right tackle spot he held at Ashland.

That means Lipski will be responsible for protecting the blind sides of South quarterbacks A.J. Palazzolo (South Medford) and Jon Gallagher (West Salem), a challenge he's looking forward to.

"It's not a big difference," he says. "It's kind of fun to flip sides and learn the differences from being on the other side of the ball."

The game will feature big-time talent on both sides of the ball. Playing for the North squad will be wide receiver Jordan Polk, who's signed with University of Washington; future Boise State running back Raphiel Lambert; and running back David Puckett, who helped Glencoe beat Ashland in the 5A quarterfinals last season.

Playing for the South will be future Oregon State wide receiver Jordan Bishop; another future Beaver, linebacker Tony Wilson; and former Crater offensive lineman Tyson Hoffman.

Turning that potential into production in just a few short days isn't as easy as it may seem, says Lipski, since everybody is learning to play with each other for the first time under a different set of coaches.

"The first practice was a little rough, but a lot of people started to get their stride back and play like they did last fall," says Lipski, who plans to leave for the University of Montana in late July or early August.

A rule unique to the Les Schwab Bowl should make life a little easier on Lipski and other offensive linemen, who shouldn't have as many blitz packages to prepare for. Inside linebackers aren't allowed to blitz as long as opposing quarterbacks remain in the pocket.

That doesn't mean life will be easy on the edges, however.

"Now you're going against some of the better pass rushers in the state, and you've got to take them one-on-one," says Lipski.

The South squad is being led by head coach Marty Johnson of Sheldon, who heads up a staff of six, including Crater head coach John Beck. Acting as head coach of the North team is Glencoe's Tim Duvall.

When the players weren't practicing, they were hanging out and having fun. The South team went bowling on Tuesday and caught a movie on Wednesday. They're staying at the Portland State dorms, which are just a two-block walk from the practice facility.

Lipski has roomed with Clayton York, a lineman from Redmond.

"It's cool to meet other guys that are doing the same thing," says Lipski.

The all-star game, which was known as The Shrine Game for the first 50 years of the series, began in 1948, when the State team beat the City team, 35-13. The North leads the all-time series, 29-27, with four ties.

Last year, the North won handily, 42-14.

"I know," Lipski says, when told of the North's streak. "We gotta get one."

Joe Zavala is sports editor of the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 482-3456, ext. 224, or joe.zavala@dailytidings.com