Backup plan pays off
James Johannesson walked into the Biesiot Activities Center locker rooms huffing and puffing, simply exhausted from his efforts on the football field.
"Yeah," he said with a sigh and a smile. "I'm out of breath."
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound sophomore had the game of his career Friday, rushing for 300 yards and four touchdowns on 37 carries to help No. 2-ranked Fargo South win a defensively absent Class 3A nonconference game against Dickinson High, 60-38.
Johannesson stepped into the Bruins' featured back role after senior starter Zach Reich turned his left ankle on the opening drive.
"It's hard to fill Reich's spot, I guess," Johannesson said, adding he never expected to rush for so many yards. "Honestly, no. But the linemen, they're our team. They brought us the victory today. When they're five-foot holes, it's hard not to get seven, eight yards a carry."
South's (7-1) big push up front helped it do nearly whatever it wanted offensively, gaining 570 yards.
"We just cannot put a full game together," Dickinson head coach Dennis Morris said. "Normally, it's been a period of time that we've taken off. Tonight, it was defense."
South head coach Troy Mattern said he had no problem putting the ball in Johannesson's hands nearly 40 times.
Johannesson broke the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season as he scored touchdowns on runs of 6 and 2 yards in the first half, both of which capped lengthy, clock-eating drives.
He added touchdown runs of 27 and 17 yards a little more than 2 minutes apart during a back-and-forth fourth quarter that saw the teams score a combined five touchdowns.
"He's just the type of kid where nothing bothers him," Mattern said. "He just gets up there and makes things happen."
South sophomore running back Ty Brooks rushed for a season-high 83 yards and a pair of touchdowns and Zach Kellen was 6 of 11 for 117 yards passing and two touchdowns.
Reich, who came into the game with 1,137 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns, sprained his left ankle after gaining 46 yards on four carries on South's first series and didn't play the rest of the game. Mattern said he was left out of the game as a precautionary measure.
South wasn't the only team that tore up the turf either.
The Midgets (3-5) rushed for 299 yards.
Dickinson junior quarterback Dylan Skabo rushed for 92 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 62-yard scramble, to go along with his 48 yards passing.
Junior Jace Dukart had 72 yards on 13 carries and scored on a pair of 5-yard TD runs. Junior Michael Cherwinski led the Midgets rushed for 86 yards and had a 9-yard TD run with 32 seconds left in the first half.
"Our team kind of flip-flops," Dukart said. "One week we'll have bad offense, the next week we'll have bad defense. This week, our defense just couldn't hold it. Our offense was there."
If both teams win their next game, they could meet again in two weeks in the Class 3A playoffs.
If Dickinson beats Mandan on the road next Wednesday, it will have the West Region's No. 4 seed.
South needs to beat Grand Forks Red River on Wednesday in its regular-season finale to clinch the Eastern Dakota Conference title and the East Region's No. 1 playoff seed.
"We have one game left to try and put it all together," Morris said. "It's do or die now."
South 8 24 14 14 -- 60
DHS 7 10 0 21 -- 38
S-James Johannesson 6 run (Johannesson run), 6:36
D-Jace Dukart 5 run (Tony Kostelecky kick), 3:09
S-Johannesson 2 run (Johannesson run), 10:07
S-Ty Brooks 25 run (Johannesson run), 9:14
D-Kostelecky 30 FG, 5:27
S-T.J. Rostad 15 pass from Zach Kellen (Johannesson run), 2:40
D-Michael Cherwinski 9 run (Kostelecky kick), :32
S-Cole Staigle 10 pass from Kellen (run failed), 7:38
S-Brooks 32 run (Johannesson run), 3:49
D-Dylan Skabo 10 run (Kostelecky kick), 11:48
S-Johannesson 17 run (run failed), 9:49.
D-Skabo 62 run (Kostelecky kick), 8:49
S-Johannesson 27 run (Johannesson run), 7:46.
D-Dukart 5 run (Kostelecky kick), 2:35
RUSHING: S, Johannesson 37-300, Brooks 11-83, Zach Reich 4-46, Kellen 1-(minus-4). D, Skabo 11-92, Cherwinski 12-86, Dukart 13-72, Shypkowski 14-70, Alec Steig 1-1, Mac Rohr 1-(minus-22).
PASSING: S, Kellen 6-11-0 117. D, Skabo 5-8-1 48, Rohr 1-3-0 minus-1.
RECEIVING: S, Josh Verghis 2-54, Brooks 1-37, Rostad 1-15, Staigle 1-10, Reich 1-1. D, Jordan Krieg 3-38, Levi Jordheim 3-11.