FARGO, N.D. – It’s not often that I report on Minnesota high school activities from another state. But this is a special deal: Thursday was football section championship day at the Fargodome, with four teams winning and qualifying for the state tournament. The same thing will happen Friday, with four more games. Here’s how Thursday went for me…
12:35: Cross the state line into North Dakota. Given the skunk eye by border guards. Thankfully no frisking this time.
12:57: Enter the Fargodome through the loading dock, clear security. No skunk eyes.
1:03: Catch my first glimpse of the action, from field level. Waubun Bombers in blue, Ada-Borup Cougars in white. Cougars lead 7-3, and that is the halftime score of the nine-man Section 6 championship game.
1:45: Waubun's Darius Woods-Steichen blocks an Ada-Borup punt.
1:50: The punt block pays off as an 8-yard TD run by Peyton Syverson puts Waubun ahead 10-7 in the third quarter. On the next drive, an Ada-Borup punt snap sails into the end zone, Cougars fall on it for a safety and Waubun leads 12-7.
2:35: Waubun defeats Ada-Borup 18-7 to advance to the state tournament for the first time since 2007.
2:40: Waubun assistant coach John Clark Sr. laughs when I ask him if he’ll stay at the Fargodome for the 5:30 game between Mahnomen and Polk County West. His son, John Clark Jr., is the Mahnomen coach and another son, Paul, is the Waubun coach. John Sr. is an assistant to his son John on the Mahnomen boys basketball team. Mahnomen and Waubun are only 10 miles apart, “and during the basketball season the people in Waubun see me wearing Mahnomen colors and wonder what the heck is going on,” John Sr. said with a big smile.
3:01: Kickoff between Kittson County Central and Stephen-Argyle in the nine-man Section 8 title game.
3:06: Christopher McGlynn gets a short TD run for Stephen-Argyle, Storm leads Kittson County Central 7-0.
3:08: I receive this Tweet from Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, who played small-school football in South Dakota: “Loving the 9-man coverage.” Thanks Chad.
3:49: I notice some of the surnames on the Stephen-Argyle roster: five Yutrzenkas (including an assistant coach and cheer advisor), two Szczepanskis, two Gryskiewiczs, two Neuschwanders and a Kasmierzcak. Hate to be the P.A. announcer right now.
3:37: With Stephen-Argyle leading 13-7 at halftime, the Fargo Forum’s Chris Murphy delivers a bag of candied almonds from the concession area. Never had ‘em before, but will buy some to bring home.
4:17: Stephen-Argyle capitalizes on a Kittson fumble as Justin Yutrzenka scores on a short run. Storm leads 21-7 early in the second half.
5:22: After Stephen-Argyle wins 21-14, Storm coach Ethan Marquis talks about the team returning to state for the first time since 2009. Back then, the Storm won a state-record 76 games in a row, a streak ended by Kittson County Central in 2008. “This is everything,” he said. “These kids grew up in the stands, watching those 76 wins in a row. This is a dream come true to get to the state playoffs. It’s everything.”
5:42: Kody Lefebvre scores 3-yard touchdown to cap opening drive for Mahnomen, which leads Polk County West 6-0 in the Class 1A Section 8 title game.
5:55: Mahnomen’s Brian Schoenborn runs into the end zone from 11 yards but a penalty brings it back. Two plays later, Jake Worms scores on a 3-yard run. Mahnomen leads 14-0.
6:14: Mahnomen takes 22-0 lead on 12-yard touchdown run by Lefebvre. Polk County West fans remain positive and loud.
6:23: Having purchased two bags of candied almonds, I eat most of one bag quickly. The other one will leave the building with me tonight.
6:43: Mahnomen leads 36-0 at halftime.
6:55: Personal pan pizza, purchased at the concession stand, disappears quickly.
7:33: I learn that Polk County West – a second-year cooperative team with students from Climax, Fisher and East Grand Forks Sacred Heart – will transform into two basketball teams in the winter: Climax/Fisher and Sacred Heart.
7:40: Clock runs out on Mahnomen’s 44-7 win over Polk County West. Indians are going to the state tournament for the sixth year in a row. They were Class 1A state champs in 2012 and 2013.
7:45: Mahnomen’s Lefebvre, a senior who scored three touchdowns, is the happiest person in the Fargodome. He sat out the entire 2014 season with a knee injury. “That wasn’t very fun,” he said. “Today? This feels pretty good.”
8:10: Kickoff between Pequot Lakes and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton in the Class 3A Section 8 title game.
8:15: Someone Tweets me a photo of the Waubun and Mahnomen coaches (brothers Paul and John Clark Jr.) with their mom in the stands. It’s the photo of the day.
8:28: A 24-yard TD run by Eric Watt gives Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton a 13-7 lead over Pequot Lakes in the first quarter.
9:20: With D-G-F leading 29-7 at halftime, a debate breaks out in the press box: How are statistics (pass yards, rush yards) figured on a hook-and-lateral play? Frenzied Googling ensues.
10:02: The day’s action ends with Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton defeating Pequot Lakes 36-13.
10:03: I snap a photo of the DGF Rebels mascot, a kid in a costume (with giant plastic head) along the lines of an old-time southern chap. I ask the kid if the mascot has a name, “Like Ronnie the Rebel or Ralph the Rebel or Richie the Rebel?” No, he replies, it’s just the Rebel. Fair enough.
10:11: Having returned to my car in the Fargodome parking lot, I realize something: My favorite pen is missing. Hopefully someone who picks it up on the football field appreciates it. That was the only less-than-perfect thing that happened all day.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 128
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 4,818
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn