Strong start lifts Pack to victory
West Fargo's offense outscored Bismarck Century 12-3 in the first two quarters of play, and then the West Fargo defense hung on for dear life, as the Pack downed the Patriots 12-10 at Lodoen Field on Friday night.
Neither team provided much in terms of firepower on the offensive side of the ball, but for those that love a good "slobber-knocker," Friday's opener was a solid game for West Fargo.
"We've got some real team speed and some guys that can really fly to the football," Jay Gibson, head coach of the Packers, said. "Any coach will tell you they don't mind having speed. It makes scheming a lot easier."
The Packer defense, which allowed a bigger Century offensive line no leeway in the first half, stuffed the Patriot offense time and again by shooting gaps and stringing out the Century tailbacks on sweeps to the sideline. West Fargo's line, smaller by an average of more than 20 pounds at almost every spot, was more mobile, got off blocks quicker and shut down the Century offense.
As a result, Century coach Ron Wingenbach went to the air with quarterback Zach Wentz, who was riddled with three interceptions by the Packer defense. That unit was stellar the entire evening, giving up just 17 yards on the ground in the first half and coming through with a huge red-zone stand in the fourth quarter.
"I couldn't be prouder of those guys. They played outstanding," Gibson said.
The offense, meanwhile, looked good early, marching to scores in each of the first two stanzas. Rob Gibson, who finished with negative yards rushing thanks to two bad snaps that lost more than 30 yards in the second half, was strong running and throwing the ball on both drives. He scored the game's second touchdown with an 8-yard keeper.
Also impressive was the tailback tandem of big Grant Schmidt and speedy Ty Swanson, who have emerged in fall practice as the team's top options at tailback. Schmidt busted out 20 yards on just five carries, while Swanson scored the game's first touchdown with a 2-yard dive.
But the Packer offense wasn't hitting on all cylinders. West Fargo managed less than 200 yards
Century's tandem of Evan Gessellchen and Logan Leingang, considered one of the best backfields in the West, was shut down for just 66 yards rushing. Wentz had 150 yards through the air, but also had 30 attempts and was sacked three times, including a huge sack in the fourth quarter when it looked like the Pats might punch in the go-ahead score. Evan Rolstad dumped Wentz for a 9-yard loss on that key play.
West Fargo, which started the season with a win for the fourth time in six seasons, will travel to Dickinson to try to move to 2-0. Gibson said that, like last Friday, he will use many different players at different positions in the second half before the team enters Eastern Dakota Conference play at home against Devils Lake on Friday, Sept. 8.
"They're kind of like preseason games," he said. "We just don't care that much about the end result. We want to see what our guys can do. That first game can kind of set the tone, so you don't want to come out and lose by 20 or 30 points. But if you lose by a couple or squeak out a win, you're all right with that. We'll head out to Dickinson and see what happens. They have a quick team and a couple of guys that are solid players, so it should be a good match-up. Then we'll focus on Devils Lake."