Wolves headed to Class AA football playoffs
By Neal A. Shipman
As a 210-pound senior linebacker, Beau Heiser is used to making big defensive plays for the Wolves. But when Heiser burst through Dickinson Trinity’s offensive line last Wednesday evening to recover the ball following a missed snap between the Titan’s center and quarterback, he may have made the biggest defensive play of his career.
Not only did the recovery put an end to a Dickinson Trinity drive, but it gave Watford City a 22-21 win over the Titans and secured a playoff spot for the Wolves.
“It a big win against a good football team,” stated Justin Johnsrud, Wolves’ head coach. “It guaranteed us a spot in the Class AA playoffs and hopefully, gives us some momentum as we come to the end of the season.”
In a hard-fought game, Watford City would get on the scoreboard first midway through the second quarter when Keegan Thompson scampered nine yards to the goal line to put the Wolves on top 6-0. But Dickinson Trinity would march down the field and score on its next possession to take a 7-6 halftime lead.
The Wolves opened the second half with eight quick points as Thompson crossed the goal line on a three-yard run and then ran in the two-point conversion to give Watford City a 14-7 lead.
“I was really proud of how the kids responded. We battled through some adversity and kept our heads and a positive attitude, even when falling behind in the fourth quarter,” stated Johnsrud. “Those are times when you find out what kind of team you really have. And I can’t say enough about their performance. They showed a lot of heart. They were tired, but dug deep, gave maximum effort, and found a way to win in the fourth quarter.”
The Titans would again answer the challenge as Dickinson Trinity would score on a six-yard pass play. But Watford City’s defense would hold as the Titans failed on their ensuing two-point conversion attempt.
The Titans would take the lead, 21-14, to open the fourth quarter on a 49-yard pass completion.
With Watford City’s playoff hopes on the line, the Wolves mounted their final drive of the game that was capped off by a 21-yard touchdown pass from Bo Cook to Jonathon Dunn, and a two-point conversion by Thompson.
“Football is the ultimate team game. This was a team win,” stated Johnsrud. “The offensive line did a great job up front, the lead backs kicked out and sustained blocks, and the ball carriers ran hard and kept their legs going. It all starts up front. The guy carrying the ball usually gets all the publicity, but without the other 10 guys on the field doing their job, none of it would be possible.”
While Johnsrud was thrilled with the win, he gives the team’s defense credit for holding a very good Dickinson Trinity offense to just 21 points.
“Trinity’s quarterback may be the best we have played so far,” stated Johnsrud. “We wanted to make them drive the field and not give up the big plays. And for the most part, we did that. The effort was there for all four quarters and the defense was able to capitalize on a Trinity mistake at the end of the game to get us a win. We played hard and we finally got a couple of bounces to go our way.”
The Wolves will close out their regular season play this Friday when the Wolves host Beulah at 7 p.m. at Fridley Field. The Miners are currently sitting in second place in the West Region.
“Beulah likes to run the ball out of an unconventional formation that is difficult to prepare for,” states Johnsrud. “If we have the same attitude and give the same effort that we gave against Dickinson Trinity, I really like our chances this Friday.”
According to Johnsrud, a loss to Beulah would put the Wolves as the No. 4 seed in the West, while a win would put Watford City in a three-way tie with Beulah and Bishop Ryan for the No. 2 seed.
“At that point, if we win and Bishop Ryan loses to Saint Mary’s, they would have to go to point differential and/or other criteria to break the tie,” states Johnsrud.
Thompson was the leading rusher for the Wolves against Dickinson Trinity as he picked up 130 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, while Dunn had two receptions for 32 yards.
Dalton Wright led Watford City defensively with 10½ tackles, seven of which were solo.
1st 2nd 3rd 4th Final
Dickinson Trinity 0 7 6 8 21
Watford City 0 6 8 8 22