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Austin Nelson (33) clears the way as Luke Solum (6) breaks into the open. Submitted photo

West Fargo Packer football season ends badly

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It seemed an unlikely bet that the Packers would escape this fall with a 6-4 record with essentially a brand new roster going into the season. West Fargo somehow prevailed with a 4-0 start to the season and was able to finish the year with its fourth straight 6-4 mark.

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But none of those six wins take the sting out of what happened in Bismarck last Saturday when the Packers were beaten badly 42-14 and knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.

It was West Fargo's second game in four days after beating Fargo Shanley in a play-in game the Packers were forced to compete in thanks to their 1-3 record to end the regular season.

"We were definitely tired after playing that game on Tuesday," said Packers coach Jay Gibson. "We didn't have that extra that you need when you're playing a really good football team."

The veteran coach wasn't the only person that noticed.

"We just didn't come out and play hard enough," said junior linebacker Scott Schiller. "Bismarck is a really good team, and they played a level above us. We weren't ready for the playoffs. We weren't as excited and emotional as we should have been."

It didn't help that the Packers were playing a vastly different team than the one they beat on a last second play for their second win of the season. This Demon team improved greatly and made the Packers pay for their lone loss of the season, jumping out to a 21-7 lead and never looking back. Bismarck scored two touchdowns in each of the first three quarters.

Gibson said Bismarck and Fargo South, teams that may very well meet in the state championship later this month, are a cut above the rest of the state and have superior team speed. "I'm just disappointed that we couldn't stay with them and compete with them," said senior running back David Schmidt. "It sucks, but we just have to move forward because there's nothing we can do about it now. We worked our butts off during the season though and proved a lot of people wrong."

Schmidt was speaking of those people that may not have thought the Packers had a chance in the world this season, having graduated just about everyone from last season's team that also lost in the quarterfinals of the playoffs.

Gibson, the head coach of five Packer state championship teams, was asked what he'll remember about 2008.

"They surprised me," he said. "I think we played much better than I thought we were going to, and what was really neat about these guys is that they played together as a team. They were honestly the West Fargo Packers, and every week we went out to try to win the game, whether we were the best team on the field or not. They gave a really good effort."

My thoughts...

...for what they're worth. And so another chapter of Packer football comes to an end, and, with it, the football playin' days of so many West Fargo seniors.

I try to stay out of the prediction game, especially during the season, but going into this one I figured these Packers had little chance to do any real damage this year. Just too many graduation losses from the year before. It seemed the playoffs were a huge stretch for this team.

It didn't seem all that practical to have two quarterbacks either. Yet the Packers didn't seem to really skip a beat when senior Alan Neer would come out and junior Bryce Jorgenson would go in - or vice versa. At least the Packers will have a highly experienced quarterback for next year - something a lot of teams won't.

It was nice to see senior Alex Pribula make a comeback. After breaking his leg early in the season, he rehabbed his way back in time to give the Packers a boost in the final two games of the year.

Goodbye to senior David Schmidt, who proved you don't have to be a big guy to take hits and give them out. He proved to be one of the top running backs and safeties in the conference. Surely he'll get an all-conference nod any day now. There are plenty of six-footers on up who won't.

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