The West Fargo football team pulled off a last-ditch touchdown pass to edge Minot 31-27 on Friday, Oct. 30, during their North Dakota State Class 3A quarterfinal game in the FargoDome.
Now the Packers (4-1 EDC, 7-3 overall) face undefeated Bismarck High on their home turf during the semifinals Nov. 7, at 1 p.m.
To say this is a daunting task would be an understatement. West Fargo faced the Demons in last year's quarterfinals and were thumped 42-14.
But Bismarck isn't invincible; the Packers have topped them before. In fact, last September the Packers upset the West Region powerhouse 22-15.
The Demons (5-0 WDA, 10-0) haven't lost since.
On Friday, Minot was paced by running back Donte Smart, who finished with 183 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries.
"There were many times when both teams could have folded their tent," said Jay Gibson, West Fargo football coach. "(Smart) had a couple big runs but both times we were able to come back and score."
Once again, the first half came down to a key momentum shift by the Packers. During their previous game against Jamestown, the Packers used a last-minute drive and score to come out on top thanks to a toe-dragging touchdown by wide receiver Jon Pistorius via quarterback Bryce Jorgenson. This time, another last-ditch drive down the field capped by Jorgenson's 10-yard touchdown run put the Packers up by three going into the second half.
"It was an excellent drive where we just nickeled and dimed them and eventually got it in the end zone," Gibson said.
After a third quarter where neither team scored, the fourth quarter saw the Magicians leading by 10 points.
Then the Packers made their move.
Near the Minot goal line, senior running back Jacob Kiefer went in for a touchdown to bring West Fargo within three.
But as the clock wound down, it looked like the Magicians would keep their lead.
Enter yet another big drive. With 2.7 seconds left, Jorgenson made a short 3-yard pass to Pistorious who scored and put the Packers up for good.
Pistorious doesn't have the receiving numbers of standouts like Brady Schwartz, who has 588 yards on 39 catches for the season, but he does have three touchdowns, second on the team only to Schwartz (4).
"(Pistorious) has been a JV player and he's been playing extremely well," Gibson said. "Cody Albert starts at the same position. He's had a stellar year and been an excellent blocker, so it's taken us awhile to find a place for Jon to fit. ... We have to keep finding ways for 'Jonny on the spot' to play because he always seems to be in the right place at the right time.
Gibson noted that the Packers have an all-around solid core of receivers this season.
"That's why Bryce's numbers have been so good," he said. "Just look at (Minnesota Vikings quarterback) Brett Favre, you need guys on the other end, too."
With Minot in the past and the Demons looming ahead, what is West Fargo's game plan?
"We have nothing to lose. No one expects us to do anything against Bismarck," Gibson said. "We're going to play it just like any other game."
The Demons are coming off a rout of Fargo North where they scored 20 unanswered points in the third quarter and ended with a final score of 55-20.
But who knows? The Packers have slain Goliath before; maybe Saturday they'll do it again.
Volleyball season winds down
The West Fargo volleyball team picked up another important Eastern Dakota Conference win Tuesday, Oct. 27, by beating Wahpeton in straight sets 25-19, 25-19, 25-18.
The Packers (8-4 EDC, 18-12 overall) have won three of their last four games, with their only loss coming against East Region leader Grand Forks Red River on Oct. 20, in a close match that was pushed to five sets.
Wahpeton (3-8, 9-16) was led by the Kleven sisters, as Katelyn racked up five kills and 18 digs while Kelsey accrued seven kills and six blocks.
West Fargo saw another group effort as multiple players put up solid numbers. Five-foot-11 junior Carissa Becher paced the Packers by scoring a game-high 10 kills. Double-digit numbers also came from Allison Barta with 19 assists and Courtney Voeller with 20 digs. The Packers' offensive force came from junior Katelyn Holland, who amassed six kills and three service aces. Senior Jenna Green also had six kills and an ace.
Next up for the Packers were two more important EDC games. The first was an away game against EDC powerhouse Fargo Shanley (11-2, 25-5) on Tuesday, Nov. 3. The second was back home as Fargo South (5-5, 17-11) paid a visit on Thursday, Nov. 5. Neither game occurred before this edition of the Pioneer went to press.
Girls swimming and diving finishes third in Jamestown
With 311 points, the Packers girls swimming and diving team took third-place honors at last weekend's Blue Jay Invitational in Jamestown, N.D.
Williston won the meet with a team score of 456.5. Runner-up Bismarck Century tallied 363 points.
West Fargo saw another strong swimming effort by its girls, but only broke into the top three twice: in the 200 yard medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay.
In the 200 medley relay, Chelsea Gentzkow, Paige Weisz, Danica Dutt and Ashley Kranda finished in 1:57.08, slightly more than five seconds behind the winner, Williston. Alyssa Olson, Dutt, Amy Doll and Gentzkow took second place in the 400 free relay, too, with a time of 3:59.00.
Besides the relay teams, the Packers put four swimmers into the top five in various events.
Ashley Kranda grabbed fifth place in the 200 yard independent medley with a time of 2:26.43. Sam Gunning also received fifth-place honors, getting edged by Bismarck Century's Emily Smallbeck by less than half a second in the 100 yard butterfly.
Doll and Dutt went 4-5 in the 500 free, finishing in 5:45.82 and 5:46.16, respectively.
Next up for West Fargo is the Eastern Dakota Championship at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7 at West Fargo High School.