The West Fargo football team entered Saturday's North Dakota State Class 3A semifinal game against top-ranked Bismarck as an underdog.
So when the defending state champion Demons handily defeated the Packers 42-14, it wasn't much of a surprise.
Interestingly enough, Bismarck defeated West Fargo by the same score during last year's state tournament quarterfinals.
But even with the loss, West Fargo should be proud of its season after finishing 4-1 in the Eastern Dakota Conference and 7-4 overall.
"I was pleased with the effort all year long," West Fargo football coach Jay Gibson said.
From a stuttering first half of the season that might have left some fans and players scratching their heads, the Packers rebounded and went on an impressive five-game winning streak before finally falling to Bismarck.
Until Saturday, West Fargo had not lost a game since a close two-point loss to division rival Fargo South on Sept. 25.
To put Saturday's game simply, the Demons overwhelmed.
"When you play a team with exceptional talent, they have the ability to score on any given play," Gibson said. "They didn't get their yards as easily as other teams, so defensively we played OK."
Bismarck senior quarterback Esley Thorton paced his team, going 7-for-9 passing for a total of 114 yards and just one interception. He also rushed for 40 yards on eight attempts and scored two rushing and two passing touchdowns.
West Fargo's only two scores came in the second and third quarter.
Running back Tyler Lehmann hit Austin Nelson for a 23 yard touchdown reception. This brought the Packers within a touchdown of Bismarck. West Fargo had a chance to tie things up before the end of the first half, but a holding penalty nixed any hope and a missed field goal sealed the deal.
Then the Demons went 80 yards in five plays to score, leading 21-7 with 53 seconds left in the half.
"This is why they're the top team in the state," Gibson said.
Bismarck struck first in the second half before West Fargo again saw the end zone. Senior quarterback Bryce Jorgenson made a 20-yard connection with Brady Schwartz.
Jorgenson went 14-for-25 passing for 156 yards and one interception. The Demons effectively shut down West Fargo's rushing offensive, holding Jorgenson to 9 yards on 12 carries, Jacob Kiefer to 24 yards on 8 carries, and Lehmann to 11 yards on 3 carries.
On the season, Gibson saw talent from all corners of his team.
"Bryce and Jake Kiefer played about as well as you could ask them to play," he said.
The receiving core also stepped up and performed above expectations.
"Brady Schwartz had a very good year. Austin Nelson had a bunch of catches. J.P. (Jon Pistorius) did well - the list goes on and on," Gibson said. "That was a big surprise, I didn't expect much out of those guys."
Gibson did have high hopes for the Packers offensive line, however, since several veteran players were back on the team. Gibson wasn't disappointed with them, either.
"They kind of kept us together early before our back and receiver got in their groove," he said.
As far as looking ahead to next season, Gibson said it's too early to make any predictions.
"Next year we'll start it all over," he said.