Friday Night Feature: West Fargo @ Fargo South
After watching the West Fargo Bulls take the Spartans apart last week, I couldn't miss out on the chance to see a pair of top 5 rated teams square off last night. For the Bruins it was a chance to leap frog up from their current #4 ranking, and also to drop an L on their biggest in town competition this year. To the Bruins credit, they kept it from being the Jacob Faircloth show for a second consecutive contest. Another explanation maybe that West Fargo may have actually game planned away from their record setter in order to show the diversity of their offense.
But before they could do their own impersonation of the greatest show on turf or the Drew Brees led Saints, West Fargo had to knock the rust off. They started with the ball and also in the same way as last week with a slow start over the first couple possessions. Starting slow but ending fast equals out but the coach made it clear that he wasn't satisfied with that equation.
After a pair of punts to open the game, the second of which was by South and got partially blocked, giving tremendous field position to the Bulls. Seven minutes into the action, after a run into the red zone by Quarterback Andy Gravdahl, big back Alexander Sell pushed through the defense for a three yard touchdown. Lead number one of the game only lasted 1:24 of game time and not much more then that in real time.
Tanner Dubois hit Jamon Howard in the middle of the field, at least 40 yards from touchdown land but the receiver was not to be denied. He broke tackles got all 69 yards in one play. It was at that moment, for just that moment, that the game which I considered to have game of the year potential felt like it may live up to the billing. Unfortunately for the half of the surprisingly thin crowd, it didn't work out that way.
On their next possession the Gravdahl began to use those other weapons that I alluded to. First up was mr. utility - Joe Pistorius who hauled in a pair of passes got them around the 35 yard line. Then the QB called his own number to gain another 8 yards. Not long after that Sell bought another 6 points from 19 yards out.
Given a second chance to maintain the lead, the West Fargo defense not only held the Bruins to a three & out, they pushed them backward in the process.
Once the ball was back in Gravdahl's hands he continued to spread the wealth around. This time with a strike to Jared Franek who extended the play, running to the 33. From there, the Sellers market continued on a run to just inside the red zone and followed with a touchdown a few plays later from just outside the end zone.
Save for their lone scoring drive or play, since it came in such a big play fashion, the Bruins had failed to get much traction on offense. When they got the ball back with 6:01 showing on the clock that started to get reversed. After a penalty was committed by each team, Fargo South stood with a second & 19 which soon became a fourth down and six at mid field, their second fourth down of the drive. The first was converted on a QB sneak, just before the penalties. The second attempt was less simple yet had the same result, this time on a pass that gave them a first down at the 30 yard line. Another run gave Fargo South a first down at the 15.
After the snap of the ball, Dubois chose his target cutting toward the end zone but as the ball cut through the air Dirus Suah jumped the route and stole the momentum that the Bruins had been accumulating. With seconds remaining in the first half, West Fargo sought to strike another blow before the break but was held without more points.
The second half proved to be more of the same. After forcing another South punt the Bulls offense went back to work. Another fourth down meant another big play. Maybe someone should do a version of football where it's one down or a turnover. Anyways, the latest big play manifested as a touchdown pass to Dustin Mertz. Like I said, Gravdahl was slinging it around the yard!
After another forced punt by the West Fargo defense, the Bulls started the second drive of the half at the 42. It took all of one play for them to put another, and realistically probably the final, nail in the coffin of the hosts. It came on a 42 yard bomb to Pistorius on the first play of the possession. After a second missed point after attempt failed the score sat at 33 - 7. Then came some sweet and salty for the Bruin fans in the stands.
On a well struck pooch kick, the ball hit one of the Fargo South players at the front of their return formation and bounced straight back toward the West Fargo's players, who just had to fall on it for the recovery. Well that was the salty, what was the sweet? On the next play of the game Gravdahl was intercepted by Victor Isaak.
But the sting seemed to be their fortune for the evening. Even with the great field position all the Bruin offense was able to produce was another turnover. This time by one of the co-players of the game, Sell, who jumped the route in the end zone to prevent a second score by #4. West Fargo didn't get much done with that latest extra possession and save for a short touchdown run by Franek, the action bogged down in the fourth quarter as the result was all but set in stone.
If it didn't show that West Fargo is the odds on favorite to win this years championship, then nothing will. But it did. It should. If it's not enough evidence for you that they're North Dakota's greatest team then you may want to reevaluate your sports fandom.