FARGO-Top-ranked Bismarck St. Mary's scored four touchdowns in less than nine minutes to end the first half Friday, Nov. 11, at the Fargodome.
That scoring spree sparked the Saints to a 47-6 victory against Kindred for the North Dakota Class 2A state football championship at Gate City Bank Field.
"Momentum is hard to get back in a football game and they had it and they rode it," Kindred head coach Matt Crane said. "We needed at those times to answer and we just didn't."
The Saints (12-0) have won three of the past four Class 2A state championships. Kindred (9-3) was trying to win its first state championship.
"All year I've told them to enjoy the ride, remember the journey and it's been a great journey for us," Crane said. "A little disappointed with how it shook out, but we're definitely proud of what we did this year."
The Saints rushed for 388 yards on 59 attempts, averaging 6.6 yards per carry behind an offensive line that averages nearly 260 pounds per player. St. Mary's senior running back Kurt Dickhut rushed for 234 yards and three touchdowns on 32 attempts.
"I'm pretty confident about my line and that helps a lot running the ball," Dickhut said. "It's easy to do with a line like that."
The Vikings averaged nearly 40 points per game in the four games leading into the state championship, including two playoff wins.
"They've got great athletes, I think we just sort of ground on them, but we also kept the ball from them," said St. Mary's head coach Dan Smrekar, who was named Class 2A coach of the year. "We wanted long drives, eat up the clock, and that's what we were able to do."
Dickhut started the second-quarter scoring binge with a 1-yard touchdown run that gave the Saints a 7-6 lead with 8 minutes, 31 seconds to play in the half. Less than four minutes later, senior running back Cole Spies scored on a 4-yard run for a 14-6 lead. Dickhut then added a 26-yard touchdown run to give the Saints a 21-6 edge.
Saints quarterback Cole Gendreau capped the first half with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Spies for a 28-6 lead with 4 seconds to play until halftime.
Gendreau attempted only two passes the entire game.
"We did what we do best, run the ball," Dickhut said. "After the first score, it gets exciting."
Kindred finished with 111 yards on 46 plays with 96 yards coming on its lone scoring drive. The Vikings took a 6-0 lead after senior quarterback Ethan Lingen threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to senior Brock Benson with 11:56 to play in the first half. That came after Dickhut fumbled inside the Kindred 5-yard line.
"It was a great start," Crane said.
Dickhut wasn't pleased with the early miscue.
"That really woke us up," Dickhut said. "It sparked something in us. We didn't like that."
The Vikings didn't have an answer for the Saints running game. The physical St Mary's offensive line, which includes 6-foot-2, 290-pound center Chauncey Turner and 6-foot-6, 300-pound left tackle Ethan Birnbaum, opened running lanes throughout the game.
"They pushed us around a little bit. It was second-and-short all game long," Crane said. "It's the hardest thing in football when you can't stop the run. It's going to be difficult to win a football game."
Spies rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 10 attempts to go along with his touchdown catch right before halftime. He was named Class 2A senior athlete of the year.
Kindred senior quarterback Ethan Lingen completed 14 of 28 passes for 130 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The Vikings finished with minus-19 rushing yards on 18 attempts.
"It started to snowball on us," Crane said. "It felt like we had to climb out of this big deficit and we needed a home run every single play. It didn't work for us."
Kindred 0 6 0 0--6
St. Mary's 0 28 13 6--47
KHS--Benson 6 pass from Lingen (pass failed)
SM--Dickhut 1 run (Huber kick)
SM--Spies 4 run (Huber kick)
SM--Dickhut 26 run (Huber kick)
SM--Spies 29 pass from Gendreau (Huber kick)
SM--Spies 6 run (kick failed)
SM--Dickhut 25 run (Huber kick)
SM--Gendreau 1 run (kick failed)