Ball Security Optional, at least for one night
If I were a player and even suggested the idea that taking care of the ball was anything but mandatory, I would be benched by any coach worth his or her salt. But on a night where the team's combined for more turnovers than points that one of them was able to score.
I I I I I I I I I I I
11 tick marks.
11 turnovers between Sheyenne & South.
As great as some of the individual performances were during the 48 minutes, interceptions and fumbles are the story of the game. But just talking about them doesn't tell the story of the game so I'll get on with it.
As he's done before, Nathan Goldade took the Mustangs from 0 to 81. As in 81 yards, after the first two plays went for negative yards he broke to the left and after a few steps was into the open field. Exactly the kind of start that South was hoping to avoid, after two plays that went the way they would have wanted. It flipped that quickly, but the Mustangs had just started running.
Three plays later and another big play broke. On third and medium, deep in their end of the field, Wyatt Hanson dropped back to pass but as the ball floated through the air another of Sheyenne's stars of the night jumped up to take it away. Tyler Terhark got the avalanche of turnover's started while giving the offense a chance to start burying the Bruins.
Goldade powered them for a few yards to start the jaunt to 14-0 lead. From the 16, Parker Sander dropped the pass to Barika Kpeenu which left the kick after to complete the deal. The kick didn't work out but Tony Hoang would get plenty more chances.
In an effort to stem the tide, South went to running the ball. Sibomana Enock got them a first down but the third play again proved to be a problem as South fumbled and Sheyenne didn't whiff the recovery.
Terhark showed that his interception was far from as fluke as he hauled in a pass to the seven on the second play. Two plays later the pass went to Brock Hestdalen for the third score of the game. South kept it from being on the third play again but four plays isn't much better.
The Bruins next chance couldn't maintain even that small margin of improvement. After a pair of incompletions, Hestdalen came back with another catch for his Mustangs.
Two plays later and Nathan Goldade was back in the zone. When confronted by a frustrated Bruin player for a seemingly inadvertent taunt, Goldade did one of the best things I saw all night - he walked away. In an emotional game having the clarity of thought to not escalate it was exactly what needed to happen.
But for South maybe it gave them a bit of a spark as well. Aided by a couple of penalties and largely handled on the ground, South found themselves with a third and eight at the nine. Short of another turnover that all but assured them of points but for them to keep any hope of a comeback alive it had to be a touchdown. On the second play of the second quarter Hanson hit his tight-end Dawson Weisenberger for a much needed score.
Now down to a 20 point deficit it was South's time to build on their momentum. With mere seconds having come of the clock they got the chance as Sheyenne put the ball on the new turf and South jumped on it near mid field.
Two plays later and the Bruins gave it right back on a fumble.
Four plays after that South got it back the same way. Three possessions, three fumbles - like I said, ball security optional.
Team Brown slowed the bleeding on the ensuing possession but even then only managed three plays and a punt.
Their defense showed some recovery from the start of the game by a forcing a three and out as well. The offense just didn't have it though and in practically no time the defense was back on the field.
At this point it seemed like both teams just wanted to get to halftime to try and figure somethings out. Sheyenne managed to string some runs together to eat clock but the tale of the quarter wasn't done being told. The Football hit the turf once again and the Bruins managed to be Johnny's on the spot.
A couple of hand-offs and an incomplete pass were all they could muster before giving it back to the Mustangs again.
With only seconds remaining, Sheyenne looked drive the final nail in the coffin before the break. The long pass attempts fell harmlessly to the turf yet still sent the message that they weren't going to be satisfied with what they had already done. It was a message well received when the clock started moving again in the second half.
Meager though it may have been, South was able to build some momentum during the second quarter. With the ball back in their hands, they were able to grow it just a little larger. They successfully moved the ball 37 yards and were going for more but their sharpness wasn't quite there even as they got into more of a groove. A couple more incomplete passes and Sheyenne got the ball back close to the 50.
But the seed of South's progress continued to sprout. Two plays into their first drive and the Mustang's coughed it up again. So the Bruins had a another chance to operate with a shortish field.
Sheyenne went back to their bread & butter with a couple handoffs to Goldade before making a strike to Terhark to finish what he had started. After another unsuccessful kick the running horses had the lead back up to 26.
A personal ambition that I have when I go to games is to try and figure out the point at which it changes. If there is a definitive point of time that is. Last night I would say that it was after that score.
To my point, South go the ball back and went three & out.
The Stang's continued to drive the point home though. 10 of the 11 plays to end the third quarter were hand offs. The one pass that was thrown got an interference call so it was all working for them into the final frame. With no reason to mess with a good thing the first play of the fourth was a handoff. Then for good measure they threw another touchdown to Kpeenu.
With more than 10 minutes to go in the game maybe they could have rallied. Under different circumstances, on a different day, if the ball had bounced a little differently, maybe it would have at least been a closer game. But it wasn't and try as they might, it wasn't going to be last night. So it became about just trying to make it look a little more respectable.
Not even that was in the cards I'm afraid.
On the second pass of South's second to last drive Terhark struck for #3. An interception, another interception for the junior.
With legitimate title game aspirations in mind Sheyenne kept their foot on the pedal. A handoff to Goldade and the scoreboard lit up with six more. A 40 point blowout in a game to decide the conference champion. Now all they had to do was finish what time was remaining. A small task on it's own, but even smaller in comparison to the fact that they'll most likely have to go 3/3 against Bismarck's high school's to win the AAA championship. As the #1 seed they'll have home field in a rematch of either their first game of the year against Bismarck Legacy or the one from last night. The one loss Patriots would make for a better matchup for the media but either one has it's storylines. But first they had to get through the rest of the fourth quarter and they'll have to win next Friday. Which is not a given, even with as talented as they are.
So South got the ball back with nearly 9 minutes remaining. I'm guessing that in some part of their minds the coaches just wanted the clock to free them from what had become such a disaster but they seemed to do right by the kids with whom they are charged. Several positive plays moved them to within throwing distance of the end zone but as had happened before, so again. The ball moved through the air and ended up in the hands of a player wearing the other teams colors.
Which left nothing but formality for the Mustangs. Handoff, handoff, handoff - zero's & no injuries. So Sheyenne secured the conference title and celebrated on another team's field.
Player of the Game
Nathan Goldade was as deserving of his second POTG of the season as anyone I've seen this year. Then there was Barika Kpeenu with his two touchdown evening, a worthy considerant.
But with three interceptions and a touchdown I'm giving it to
The fact that all three of those young men will be back next year bodes very well for the program's health!
Photo of the Game
A great representation of how the game went. Not just the break away run but if you zoom in, there's a pained look on the face of the coach directly behind the failed tackle. For the rest of the best photos from the game, click the pic!
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