The Packers boys soccer team is heading back to the state tournament for only the second time in as many years.
This time around, however, West Fargo is bringing a much better record to the big show, which kicks off Thursday in Grand Forks.
At 7-4-1 in conference play and 10-5-3 overall, the Packers improved by several wins over last year's team, but still are ranked No. 3 in the Eastern Dakota Conference. Likewise, the talent with the conference has advanced right along with them.
Last week marked the final regular-season games for West Fargo, which started off by facing the top-ranked team in the EDC. The Packers were hoping to hand Fargo Shanley its first loss of the season, but couldn't answer a late goal in the second half and fell 2-1.
The Deacons also defeated Moorhead 3-2 on Thursday to carry their undefeated record into the postseason.
The Packers' lone goal Tuesday against Shanley came from senior Tarley Gaye just a minute before Shanley's game winner. West Fargo keeper Braden Schmid had three saves on the night.
Shanley's turnaround compared with last year's team is significant, considering they were ranked fourth in the EDC and were knocked out of state with two straight losses.
The Packers, meanwhile, finished fifth. Fargo South took the state title with a 1-0 win over Bismarck Century.
Considering that fact makes West Fargo's most recent accomplishment that much more amazing. During its last regular-season game of the year, the Packers successfully knocked South out of the state tournament with a 2-1 win. It is the first time in the Bruins' history that the team won't be playing in the postseason.
Junior captain Jake Kroke got the game-winner off a penalty kick at minute 78 of the second half. West Fargo's first goal came at 26 minutes in the first half from Austin Dillard. Schmid made six saves on the night.
West Fargo's first taste of state tournament competition will be against the West's No. 2-seeded Bismarck. The Demons finished on top in the regular season with an 8-1-1 conference record and 10-3-2 overall, but were bumped from a No. 1 seed after a WDA-title loss to Bismarck Century.
Coincidentally, the Packers have already once faced Bismarck this season. West Fargo's opener Aug. 21, against the Demons resulted in a 0-0 tie.