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Saints stop Huskies to win 2A title

By Kevin Schnepf

Forum News Service

FARGO — For the second straight week, Noah Krebs was in the right place at the right time.

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Krebs delivered a booming tackle on a two-point conversion to preserve Bismarck St. Mary’s 24-22 North Dakota Class 2A state championship win over Wahpeton during Friday’s Dakota Bowl at the Fargodome.

As a result, St. Mary’s claimed its first state football championship since 1994.

“It’s great to give this school a ring again,” said Krebs, a junior linebacker who caused a fumble to help set up the winning score in St. Mary’s semifinal win at Fargo Shanley last week.

This time, with 76 seconds left of the state title game, Krebs and his St. Mary’s teammates lined up on defense knowing they had to stop Wahpeton’s two-point conversion to prevent a tie game. St. Mary’s figured Wahpeton was going to run the option. So they called from Krebs to blitz through the right side of the line.

“The fullback didn’t see me … I didn’t even get touched,” said Krebs, who leveled Wahpeton running back Brock Lingen for a loss in the backfield. “It just happened to be the right call for me to be in the right spot.”

Wahpeton, which was hoping for its first state championship since 1971, had run the quarterback on its two previous two-point conversions. But this time, head coach Brian Dokken opted to get the ball to Lingen — who had rushed for more than 1,300 yards this season.

“I wanted to make sure Lingen, our horse, had the ball in his hands,” said Dokken, who wished he had given quarterback Jack Christensen the option to check out of the called play. “It was a no-checks play. That’s one call that may haunt me for a long time.”

Christensen, a 6-foot senior, orchestrated a comeback in which Wahpeton overcame a 24-8 deficit early in the fourth quarter.

On a 77-yard scoring drive that cut the lead to 24-16, Christensen ran the ball six times for 55 yards. He was masterful in avoiding the pass rush to convert key third-down plays. And he executed fake handoffs to keep St. Mary’s defense — one that had limited opponents to 10 points a game — off balance.

“He’s great at hiding the ball,” Krebs said of Christensen. “I had no clue where the ball was at times.”

With 2 minutes, 49 seconds remaining in the game, Wahpeton got the ball back on the St. Mary’s 31 — after the Saints were forced to punt from their own 5-yard line. That led to Lingen’s 14-yard touchdown run that cut the lead to 24-22 with 1:16 remaining.

“In the second half, Wahpeton did a great job of keeping our offense off the field,” said Dan Smrekar, who in his 36th season as St. Mary’s head coach won his fourth state championship. “Last week, we asked our defense to come up with a big play and they did. And then they did it again today.”

For Wahpeton, it was a tale of two halves.

In the first half, the Huskies ventured into St. Mary’s territory three times but came away with no points. And late in the third quarter, they marched to the Saints 25 but came away with nothing.

“We definitely felt like we left a lot of points out there,” said Dokken, whose team finishes the season with a 10-2 record.

Perhaps the biggest points were St. Mary’s final points. That came with just over three minutes left of the first half when all-state soccer player Ryan Martire’ kicked a Dakota Bowl-record 43-yard field goal. The kick that just sailed over the crossbar broke the 2009 record of 41 yards set by Fargo Shanley’s Daniel Jordan.

“That ended up being the difference maker of the game,” Dokken said.

SM 14 10 0 0 — 24

Wapheton 8 0 0 14 — 22

First quarter

SM–Heinert 3 run (Matire kick)

SM–Obritsch 34 pass from Smrekar (Matire kick)

W–Christensen 4 run (Christensen run)

Second quarter

SM–Obritsch 5 pass from Smrekar (Matire kick)

SM–Matire 43 field goal

Third quarter

W–Lingen 13 run (Zarak run)

Fourth quarter

W–Lingen 15 run (run failed)


RUSHING: SM, Heinert 13-103, Krebs 14-84, Schwab 1-11, Sparks 1-3, Smrekar 2-2, Team 3-(minus-2). W, Lingen 21-98, Christensen 20-90, Wixo 3-5, Zarak 1-(minus-2).

PASSING: SM, Smrekar 3-6-0, 56. W, Christensen 13-26-2, 173.

RECEIVING: SM, Obritsch 3-56. W, McNary 5-79, Wixo 3-46, Irwin 2-40, Lingen 1-3, Zarak 1-3, Poppen 1-2.

Kevin Schnepf
Kevin Schnepf is the sports editor for The Forum. He has been working at The Forum since 1986.
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