One day shy of a year since Dickinson High handed Fargo North a season-opening loss, the Spartans came back to the Biesiot Activities Center on Friday and returned the favor.
The Midgets were 28-9 winners over Fargo North to begin 2016, but Dickinson's 2017 campaign opened with a series of penalties, turnovers and porous run defense, culminating in the Spartans' 23-9 victory.
"We were wearing down. We were trying to roll guys in and they were able to run the ball," Dickinson head coach John Tuchscherer said. "In the end, when we needed to be on the field offensively, they were putting together big drives. Whether they resulted in points or not, it took a lot out of our guys and a lot of time off the clock. I'm proud of our guys. They didn't quit, and they fought the whole game, and that's something we can hang our hat on going into next week."
Fargo North (1-0) senior running back Sean Swanson gashed the Dickinson (0-1) defense for 186 yards and three rushing touchdowns, accounting for all of the Spartans points save for a third-quarter field goal from Garrett Krom.
"Sean has wanted this for years and he was chomping at the bit last year to get some carries, and judging by his performance tonight, maybe we should have gotten him in more last year," Spartans head coach Adam Roland said. "The kid's just a hard runner. He's not real big, but he keeps his legs moving. He's everything you want out of a running back, out of a senior leader and a captain."
Dickinson started the scoring with Conner Hoenke's 26-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter, but the extra point was missed, and the Midgets led 6-0 going to the second quarter.
"After that run I felt we were going to win that game, but we fell apart in the second half," Hoenke said. "It felt great to kick off the game that way, though. There's no better way."
Hoenke finished with 57 rushing yards on 17 carries before exiting midway through the third quarter with cramps in both legs.
"He runs the ball hard, and he has really good vision," Tuchscherer said of Hoenke. "One of the things we're going to have to continue to do is develop some depth at running back because as soon as he went out of the game, we were kind of stuck. We couldn't really run the ball."
Two plays after Fargo North receiver Justin Milliard dropped a touchdown in the end zone as the second quarter drew to a close, Swanson scored on an 18-yard carry to give the Spartans their first lead at 7-6.
Dickinson freshman Nagi Williams tallied a 26-yard field goal right before halftime to give Dickinson a 9-7 edge at the break.
The Midgets were unable to add to their lead to open the second half, and the Spartans took advantage. Swanson added his final two touchdown runs - of 4 and 7 yards, respectively - sandwiched around Krom's 27-yard kick to put some separation between the teams.
Fargo North's Chandler Ibach also picked off Dickinson quarterback Dawson Dutchak near midfield on the first play of the fourth quarter.
"In our recent history, we have not been very good coming out of halftime, especially if we had been down," Roland said. "This was our best after-halftime performance that I can remember for a long, long time."
Dutchak completed 4 of 11 passes for 34 yards in the game, splitting time with fellow senior Antonio Nunez, who was 4 of 9 passing for 32 yards.
"I think they both did some really good things, and they both did some things that we're going to have to correct," Tuchscherer said. "Offensively, we did some things really well, but we just ended up shooting ourselves in the foot. ... You can't have that many penalties if you want to win a football game, so that's something we're going to have to clean up."
Both teams were penalized heavily in the contest. The Spartans committed 12 infractions for 116 yards; Dickinson was whistled for 11 penalties for 68 yards.
Fargo North 23, Dickinson High 9
FN 0 7 10 6 - 23
DHS 6 3 0 0 - 9
DHS - Conner Hoenke 26 rush (Nagi Williams kick no good), 5:15
FN - Sean Swanson 18 rush (Garrett Krom kick), 2:52
DHS - Williams 26 field goal, :09
FN - Swanson 4 rush (Krom kick), 6:23
FN - Krom 27 field goal, 1:30
FN - Swanson 7 rush (Krom kick no good), 7:22
RUSHING: FN, Sean Swanson 29-186 3 TDs, Peyton Fisher 7-47, Jacob Hanneman 1-23. DHS, Conner Hoenke 17-57 1 TD, Matthew Meschke 5-5.
PASSING: FN, Hyatt Martineau 8-20-1 124 yards. DHS, Dawson Dutchak 4-11-1 34 yards; Antonio Nunez 4-9-0 32 yards.
RECEIVING: FN, Chandler Ibach 3-45, Cameron Blazek 2-27, Griffen Carlson 1-35, Erik Anderson 1-16. DHS, Krew Mathern 4-41, Morgan Wardner 2-23, Hoenke 1-14, Meschke 1-8.
TACKLES: FN, Fisher 6, Blayne Anderson 4, Joseph Boutain 4, Justin Milliard 4. DHS, Kameron Clark 7, Wardner 7, Dutchak 6, Meschke 5.
INTERCEPTIONS: FN, Ibach 1. DHS, Dutchak 1.