FARGO — Fargo Davies and West Fargo High School clashed in blustering temperatures for a back-and-forth Eastern Dakota Conference battle Thursday night.
The frigid weather didn’t seem to phase the Eagles, who notched their sixth straight victory with a 30-26 win over the Packers.
"It's like a relief now," Davies head coach Jason Thielges said. "It was a tough game. They're a good football team. We just got in front of it to pull it off."
Davies, which was ranked No. 2 in the latest Class 3A poll, continues to soar in conference play. With Thursday's win, the Eagles improved to 6-1 overall and 5-0 in the EDC. Davies is the only undefeated team in East Region contests. The Packers fell to 3-4 overall and 3-2 in conference play.
"We're executing at a high level and we have really good players," Thielges said. "The plays you call are the plays you call, but you need great players to execute them. We had some great players make some big plays tonight which really helped us."
Davies recorded its only loss to powerhouse and No. 1-ranked Bismarck Century in Week 1.
"It's fun coaching great players because they make you look smart," Thielges said.
A safety gave the Eagles an early 2-0 lead six minutes into the game. West Fargo had just dodged a bullet before the play, as Davies quarterback Reid Hartness was just short of a touchdown before the Packers forced a turnover on downs.
West Fargo was unable to take advantage of the forced turnover, as the Packers couldn't get anything going and punted it back to the Eagles.
Davies running back Jack Carlson added a 13-yard touchdown run to make it 8-0 with just under 11 minutes left in the second quarter.
The Packers got on the board thanks to a 4-yard touchdown run by quarterback Dustin Mertz. West Fargo entered the drive with excellent position at Davies' 28-yard line. Mertz tallied the 2-point conversion to tie it up at 8-8 with seven minutes to go in the first half.
The Eagles quickly regained the lead one minute later. Just when the Packers were gaining momentum, Carlson added his second score of the game to make it 14-8 Davies. The senior running back tallied 96 yards on 15 carries in Thursday's contest.
But Davies wouldn't hold the lead for long. West Fargo junior Carter Birrenkott caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Mertz to tie the game at 14-14 with exactly three minutes remaining in the first half. The score was Birrenkott's second of the year.
The Eagles broke the tie again with 30 seconds left to go in the quarter. North Dakota State commit Ty Satter caught a 38-yard reception notched by Hartness to give Davies a 20-14 lead. That score would stick heading into the second half.
Weather was increasingly becoming a factor in the matchup. The teams played the entire contest on a slippery surface in a steady rainfall. At kickoff, the wind was coming from the north at 19 mph.
As they did early in the first half, the Eagles tacked on a safety in the first six minutes of the third quarter. Satter took down West Fargo junior Sam Fredricks in the end zone six minutes into the second half, giving the Eagles a 22-14 lead. Satter also recorded two receptions for 46 yards and a score.
That was the lone drive Fredricks subbed in for Mertz.
Mertz answered by firing a bullet to Birrenkott in the end zone. But the 12-yard touchdown pass was called off by a flag. The Packers quarterback quickly came back to cap the drive with a 26-yard touchdown run on fourth down to make it 22-20.
Mertz connected on 7 of 16 passes for 113 yards and a score in the game. The senior quarterback is the EDC's fourth-leading passer.
The Packers were down by two with seven minutes remaining in the fourth.
A fumble recovery led to a 15-yard touchdown by West Fargo running back Joel McIntosh that gave the Packers a 26-22 lead. The score was the senior running back's fifth of the season.
Davies quarterback Hartness found his way into the end zone with a 6-yard rushing touchdown. Hartness tacked on the 2-point conversion to set up the 30-26 game-clinching score. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound quarterback threw for 72 yards and a touchdown on eight attempts.
Davies had the offensive edge in the contest. The Eagles tallied 327 yards of total offense, while West Fargo recorded 131. Penalties were detrimental to both teams. West Fargo had six for 35 yards. Davies lost 60 yards on seven penalties.
Thursday’s matchup was moved up an hour due to inclement weather. The venue was also changed from Davies to Fargo Shanley, which has a turf field. With Thursday’s wet conditions, Davies didn’t want to risk tearing up its grass field.
The weather and bone-chilling wind caused each team to run the ball more.
"I thought that both them and us threw the ball surprisingly well," Thielges said. "You just have to run the ball more. You're playing into that wind all the time, and going into that wind is a little tougher."
Football games across the state slated for Thursday night were postponed, moved up or rescheduled.
Davies has had to move two of its home games to Shanley this year. The Eagles are the only public high school in the Fargo metro area without an artificial turf field.
Heading into Thursday’s matchup, the Eagles came off of a 35-0 win over Fargo North (0-7, 0-5 EDC). The Packers recorded a 44-7 homecoming victory over Grand Forks Red River (2-5, 1-4 EDC) on Friday, Oct. 4.
The Eagles face No. 4- ranked West Fargo Sheyenne (6-1, 4-1 EDC) in another home game at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 16. The Packers play No. 3 Shanley (6-1, 4-1 EDC) at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Essentia Health Packer Stadium.