The writing was on the wall for this fall's Packer football season before it even began.
Graduation would take its toll from a 2010 team that rocked the Eastern Dakota Conference. This year, West Fargo would be a comparatively young, inexperienced group with a handful of returners to lead the way.
After Friday's tough 3-point loss to Fargo South, and on homecoming no less, West Fargo is feeling pressure as it sits at the bottom of the East Region standings.
With three games remaining, there still is hope of going out on a high note, but it will mean taking down three conference foes.
The Packers head to Fargo North on Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The Spartans are 2-2 against conference opponents and 3-3 overall. Their only EDC losses have come against No. 2 Devils Lake and No. 5 Grand Forks Central; teams West Fargo will face in their final two games of the regular season.
With a home crowd behind North, there's no doubt Friday's match will be another battle for West Fargo. The Spartans will be especially gunning for a win, as they have yet to accomplish the feat on their own turf this season.
Big plays like those made by Shane Siverson and quarterback Tucker Bucholz last Friday, along with a staunch defensive line, could help turn the tide in West Fargo's favor.
Even though the Packers did lose Friday 23-20, they put up some impressive numbers and had nearly 400 yards of total offense compared with North's 230 yards.
Bucholz had a season-high 239 passing yards on the night, completing 14 of 26 passes and a touchdown. The receiver to that score was Caleb Matilla, who had a game-high 85 yards on five catches, the longest of which was the 36-yarder that resulted in the TD.
Where West Fargo was particularly stifled was on the ground. North held the Packers to a mere 54 yards rushing, while producing 202 yards of its own.
West Fargo's special teams produced a needed jolt in the second quarter. After a 44-yard field goal increased the Spartans' lead to 10-0, Siverson ran the kick return back 99 yards for the score. The senior is averaging 31.3 yards on his kick returns to lead the EDC, and has now returned two for touchdowns.
The Packers defense also did some positive things Friday. Pajtim Lika and Preston Lehmann each produced a sack, while Dane Johnston snagged his second interception of the season. West Fargo has 12 sacks this fall, six of which have come from Devin Brogden.
There still is some work to be done, but little time to do it with just three games until the postseason. If the Packers can figure out how to put all their pieces together at the same time, there's no reason they can't finish the year better than they started.