Something happened on the football field last Friday that was a first for the Jay Gibson coaching era at West Fargo, and it wasn't good.
West Fargo finally lost to Mandan for the first time since at least 1991 when Gibson took over the program.
The longtime coach has a theory as to how the Packers managed to lose and cough up the ball to the Braves a whopping seven times, and Gibson is only half joking when he shares it.
"Mars last Friday was the closest to the Earth that it will be for like another 40,000 years. It's true," he said. "I'm blaming it on Mars."
Gibson can crack a smile about the game since it was only the first of the season, giving his team plenty of time to turn things around. Still, it wasn't a good way to start the year.
"I can't explain it. If you ask all our players they can't explain it either. Every four or five years you have a game where things just don't work out for you," said the coach. "We put the ball constantly on the ground. It was just bad luck, and I don't see it really being a problem."
Gibson can recall only one game when one of his teams turned the ball over more than last week - a playoff game against St. Mary's in about 1997 when the Packers had eight turnovers.
There were some good things to come out of the season-opening loss. The offensive line was dominating, according to the coach, and the Packers could move the football, as evident by senior Jacob Kiefer's career-high 129 rushing yards and three touchdown runs.
Junior receiver Brady Schwartz set a new school record for receptions in one game, with nine.
"He does a really good job of catching the ball with his hands and tight roping the sideline. I saw some good chemistry between him and (senior quarterback) Bryce (Jorgenson)," said Gibson.
West Fargo's home opener is tomorrow against Bismarck Century, a team that gave Fargo South a run for its money last week. Gibson expects to defend against a ground attack from the Patriots, given that the Packers didn't look against the run versus Mandan.
"We didn't have anything go right for us against Mandan. We're going to leave this one behind us and look at it as a learning experience. We're not worried or anything. Now we're going to get squared away," said Jorgenson, who had 151 yards on the ground to go with his 162 passing yards.
The Packers escaped the opener with only one possible injury. Junior backup strong safety Jake Hermanson may have injured his knee, and he planned to get it tested this week.
Double XC sweeps
Both Packer cross country teams swept a double dual meet with Fargo Shanley and Fargo North last week. The girls took the top five individual places with defending state champ sophomore Alissa Mears, senior Ellie Grooters and freshmen Jessica Rosenau, Brooke Grooters and Christine Baltezore leading the way, in that order.
"Everybody ran well, and it was nice to be able to do that early. It should be a good season," said Ellie Grooters.
It was a good second meet of the season for the Packer teams that both won EDC titles last season; the girls will be gunning for their third in a row.
The boys also ran well in the double duals with junior Jamison Gehrig and freshman Darin Baltezore taking first and second place. The Packers host the West Fargo Invite today at Moorhead's Johnson Park.
Johnson takes 5th
The West Fargo girls golf team was led by senior Mara Johnson's fifth place finish at the Devils Lake Invite last week. The Packers took fourth in the eight-team field. Johnson shot an 88, the best score for the team this season, while eighth-grader Ashley Bixby tied for 10th with a 90.
5-2 start for netters
The volleyball team kicked off its season on a very good note, with only two losses at the Bismarck Tournament, which featured every team in the state.
The Packers went 5-2 in the tournament and were led in kills by senior Jenna Green, who had a combined 41 in the shortened, three-set games. West Fargo plays at Moorhead tonight; results from the Packers' Tuesday conference opener against Fargo North were not available before press time.
Swimmers getting closer
The Packer girls swimming team crept even closer to defending state champion Minot at the Fargo North Invite on Saturday.
West Fargo took second at state last year and was second to Minot again this time, but only by 10 points. The Packers won the 200 medley relay, while sophomore Paige Weisz took the 100 breaststroke title.
See next week's issue for an in-depth season preview of the swimming team.