While a lot of eyes and ears across the state were tuned to the I-94 rivalry between Shanley & St. Mary's, I took the opportunity to see a much less high profile face off on the north end of town. With the reigning state champs going to Spartanville I was curious to see both team's approach against the other, especially with the drastic player turnover that the Bulls experienced.
Each team employed a specific strategy that the coaches must think best suited their rosters, at least after the first seconds of the game. After foot hit ball to send it toward the other end of the field, Declan Genova made it a 15 second possession for West Fargo. After the first of several two point conversions was successful North got the ball back with designs to even the scoreboard early in the evening.
A methodical, run heavy drive that covered 66 yards eventually found the home team with the ball and a first down at the five yard line. One play later and North was down only two points off the legs of Peyton Fisher. To return the score to even, Sparty put it on Blayne Anderson and he got the job done half way through the first quarter.
But as is often the case after fireworks go off, there was a lull of offensive silence in the game. West Fargo turned it over on downs in consecutive possessions, the second of which came courtesy of an interception by Dustin Mertz. Three strikes was all the teams gave before lighting the scoreboard up with more points.
Caleb Fritel took the next possession and in a few seconds time put his time ahead for the first time on the evening. North tried to put an early dagger into the festivities but failed on their ensuing two point conversion try.
Not to be outdone by the boys in blue, the greenies had their first sustained drive of the night result in another six points of their own. And in like fashion, also failed to convert their two point try.
More fireworks, then more silence...or at least closer to silence than explosive noise.
To end the first quarter and start the second Ben Brekke got a pair of sacks to stymie West Fargo's intentions of scoring again. His spark in turn lit the fuse of the offense once again and they went ground & pound for another moderately lengthy touchdown drive, capped by Fritel getting six more. After yet another two point try didn't work the score sat 20 - 14, Fargo North.
Which brings us to the point in the game when the defense's both started to really make plays. North got another sack on West Fargo's three & out. West Fargo countered with a forced fumble that they recovered. In turn the Spartans then managed to get an interception in the end zone. One drive that went no one then brought on the West Fargo offense to close the game and yet another interception, this one by Austin Sparrow.
But it wasn't until after halftime that the real story began to be written. As both groups of young men huddled around their coaches, enduring a ridiculous September cold snap, I wondered how it would affect their play on the field. In short, dramatically.
I thought there would still be some big plays before it was over, and there were, but I think the cold had more of an effect then even I anticipated during the 14.5 minutes of barely bearable waiting. Through to the fourth quarter the most common words in my notes were "incomplete pass." I can't blame the offense's for being off with the stiffness that they were likely trying to work through.
It wasn't until the second possession of the final frame that the frost appeared to be wearing off. Fisher got his seconds after a penalty put his team at first down and long. Guess what came next? Yep, another unsuccessful two point try. He was just warming up though. On West Fargo's next chance Fisher got an interception that at the time seemed like it could have been a game clincher.
That wasn't to be and shortly there after the Spartans punted the ball away. Wouldn't you know it though that the turnover bug just kept on biting. Another possession, another interception. Rough.
Once again the home team could do nothing but eventually punt it away so that West Fargo got to finishing with the ball. They didn't squander their final chance, a touchdown to big Luke Lennon and a two point conversion that actually succeeded put the final stamp on the game, making the score reflect how close it actually was, which is a rarity at times in sports. So even though it wasn't the most high profile contest going on in the 15 mile radius of Fargo, I got to see a great game & a great accomplishment for the Fargo North players!
Players of the Game
Photo of the Game
For the rest of the photos from the game, click the pic!