With more first-place finishes than any other Eastern Dakota Conference opponent, the top-ranked Packers boys golf team has been a model of consistency all season.
But No. 2 Fargo Shanley nipped at their heels at every turn, too, and at the East Region meet Wednesday at Edgewood Golf Course in Fargo, the Deacons finally took a sizable chunk out of West Fargo in the form of a conference championship.
The result: the Packers and Deacons, with 66 points apiece, are forced to share a regular-season crown as co-champions.
"We do the best we can," West Fargo co-coach Chuck Gad said. "But (Shanley) is a good team."
The Deacons pulled out all the stops, with their top four scores coming in consecutively as 71, 72, 73, 74, for a team score of 290. That final score by Ben Wilbaum was a surprise, as he hadn't shot better than an 83 in conference play.
"Some guy I never heard of shot a 74, and that's what beat us," Gad said of Wilbaum. "I don't know where he came from."
The Packers were five strokes behind Shanley, and finished in second place. Rounding out the state-qualifiers were Wahpeton (310), Fargo Davies (314), Grand Forks Red River (315), and Fargo South (321).
The Class A State Tournament was scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday at Dickinson's Heart River Golf Course. Results were not available, however, when this edition of the Pioneer went to press.
West Fargo may have missed the EDC Tournament team title, but they still witnessed individual successes.
For starters, Connor Holland was on fire, shooting a 70 to tie Fargo South's Landon Poss and force a sudden-death playoff. It took a while, but on the fourth hole, Holland suffered from a bad drive, Gad said, and his competitor took advantage of the slipup to post the win.
Despite that, Holland finished the season as the No. 1 player in the conference with an average of 72 strokes, and was named EDC Senior Athlete of the Year.
"Connor is just a fabulous golfer," Gad said, noting that in his many decades of coaching, he has run across very few players as consistent as Holland. "I'd rank him in the Top 5 golfers in North Dakota.
"And the thing that puts him up there is he's the only active player to win Pine to Palm. He's just heads above the rest."
West Fargo does have some other players in the ranks that may catch up to Holland one day, though. For instance, Riley Johnson has a darn good start.
"He'll be just like Connor some day," Gad said. "He's just a good ball striker."
Holland, Riley Johnson and Nick Evin all qualified for the state individual tournament. Johnson and Evin tied for eighth place after shooting 74s.
Riley Johnson also earned All-Conference honors after finishing fifth in the EDC with a 74 stroke average. His brother, Payton Johnson, was 10th and averaged 78.
Even with all their players at top form, though, the Packers will have a tough battle ahead at the state tournament.
"Golf is a fickle game," Gad said. "But I think we still have a chance. We'll just go out there and give it our best shot."
No matter what, it's been a great season all around.
"And you couldn't ask for better kids to be around," Gad said.