WEST FARGO — West Fargo High School's football team has a lot to celebrate after Friday night’s game against Fargo North.
The Packers picked up their first win of the season and shut out North in a 34-0 Eastern Dakota Conference victory over the Spartans at Essentia Health Packers Stadium. With the win, the Packers rose to 1-2 this season and 1-0 in the EDC. The Spartans dropped to 0-3 overall and 0-1 in the EDC. North has been shut out in three consecutive games.
Everything clicked for the Packers tonight.
"To get a goose egg in the first conference game, it's as good as it gets," West Fargo head coach Jay Gibson said. "We feel excellent. We really had a lot of breaks early in the game. Field position was good. We made a couple big plays."
One of those big plays came at the 6 minutes, 16 seconds mark in the first quarter. The Packers were first on the board with an 18-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Dustin Mertz to senior wide receiver Marcus Gulley.
"Marcus got a post and just ran by the guy," Gibson said. "Marcus is really fast and we need to get him the ball more, but he's such a good defensive player it's hard to run him too much."
West Fargo added a second first-quarter touchdown thanks to a 59-yard completion by Mertz, a converted wide receiver, to 6-foot-5 tight end Carter Birrenkott. Junior kicker Landon Pritchard's kick was good, giving the Packers a 13-0 lead heading into the second quarter.
Joel McIntosh added a second-quarter touchdown for West Fargo to set up a 20-0 lead with just under five minutes left in the first half.
Gibson said senior running back McIntosh, whose 2018 season was cut short by a knee injury in Week 3, ran the ball well.
The Packers weren't quite done putting up points. With just under one minute remaining in the first half, Mertz scored a 2-yard touchdown on second-and-goal, making it 27-0 at halftime. Mertz connected on 6 of 11 passes for 160 yards in the game.
McIntosh scored West Fargo's fifth unanswered touchdown with a 6-yard run on second-and-goal. That 34-0 score would stand for the remainder of the game.
"This is great strides for us," Gibson said. "We needed to get some points and 34 is a pretty good number. And a number of the guys scored, it wasn't just one person doing everything."
West Fargo hasn't had a kicker for two weeks — Pritchard finally started this week, and the Packers just started working on extra points Thursday, Gibson said. The West Fargo kicker nailed 4 of 5 extra point attempts.
Gibson likes the progress his team has made, especially in the trenches.
"The O-line has really improved. We've come a long way from the first game, so we feel real good about that," Gibson said.
West Fargo fell to North 26-22 the last time the Packers and Spartans met in September 2018. North faced a major blow entering this season with the loss of senior quarterback Caleb Fritel for the season with a shoulder injury. He threw for 739 yards and six touchdowns last fall.
The Packers came off a tough contest against Bismarck Century (2-0) heading into Friday night’s game. West Fargo fell 31-0 to Century on Sept. 6. That same night, the Spartans lost 12-0 to Dickinson (1-2).
West Fargo has another home game at 7 p.m. next Friday, Sept. 20, against Fargo South (3-0).
Tomorrow morning, the Packers will come back to practice and Gibson will find out who has bruises. Everyone feels good now following the 34-0 victory, Gibson said, but come tomorrow morning, some guys will need to be iced to prepare for next week.
"South is a good team," he said. "I know they have tremendous speed. And we have pretty good speed, too. So it might be a pretty good game. It's another week of work and trying to continue to improve."
North next faces West Fargo Sheyenne (3-0) at 7 p.m. Sept. 20 at the Fargodome, where the team will play its home games until the artificial turf on the Spartans' field is complete.
North hopes to play on its field for the first time in an Oct. 4 game against Fargo Davies.