FARGO — In four years, the Lisbon football team went from winless to a Dakota Bowl berth, but they came up just short of claiming a state title.
After going 0-8 in 2017, the Broncos have steadily improved over the careers of this year’s senior class. Their climb concluded just shy of the summit, however, as their second-consecutive season ended at the hands of Division 1A power Langdon-Edmore-Munich.
The Cardinals defeated the Broncos 42-28 in the North Dakota Division 1A football state championship game and claimed their third-straight state title on Friday at the Fargodome. The Cardinals extended their winning streak to 38 games.
“Our grade’s goal all the way back in seventh grade was to play in the Fargodome and win,” Lisbon senior running back Jordan Sours said. “I guess we accomplished one of those goals. I love each and every one of our guys and we proved that we’re a football team. In my heart and eyes, we’re champions. We didn’t give up and we gave it our best.”
After the winless 2017, the Broncos improved to 3-5 in 2018 and then went 11-1 last season. They made it to last year’s state semifinal where they lost to L-E-M 50-0. They wanted to avenge that loss in the state championship game, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
“I’m incredibly proud of this group,” Lisbon coach Joe Gerding said. “As far down and as bare as this program was four years ago, to be 0-8 when this year’s seniors were freshmen. They saw the players ahead of them not caring, not trying their hardest. And they said ‘Absolutely not. That’s not going to be us.’”
Early on it looked like the Broncos were on the path to get their revenge. They jumped out to a 20-8 lead behind a pair of interceptions by defensive lineman Robert Adam and defensive back Caeden Sweet and two touchdowns on fourth-down conversions. But L-E-M seized the lead and the momentum by doubling up with scores to end the first half and open the second half and pulled away from there.
“We felt good going into halftime, but we knew the game wasn’t over at all,” said Sours, who rushed for 165 yards and a touchdown. “It was still early in the game and we had to keep plugging away. And they made some big plays.”
The Cardinals explosive offense led by twin brothers quarterback Simon Romfo and running back Grant Romfo just couldn’t be contained in perpetuity. They scored four-straight touchdowns in the second half and built a 42-20 lead before Lisbon added one final score late.
Simon Romfo passed for 130 yards, a touchdown and an interception and rushed for 135 yards and two scores. Grant Romfo caught seven passes for 65 yards and scored three rushing touchdowns with 17 rushing yards.
“We knew the beginning of that third quarter was going to be huge,” Gerding said. “We had the lead and we knew if they got one big play, all of a sudden it flips back in their favor. They were able to capitalize and they have some special players that made huge plays for them.”
The Broncos run-heavy offense is not designed to chase a deficit. As the Cardinals built up a multiple-score lead with the ability to score on seemingly any play, Lisbon didn’t have time to continue marching down the field on sustained drives. They just ate up too much clock.
“I’m proud of all of our guys, we didn’t give up until the last minute,” Sours said.
Lisbon defensive end Robert Adam gave the Broncos a 2-score lead early with a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown. The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder dropped into the flat and jumped a screen to the right. He broke a tackle on the return and rumbled in to give the Broncos a 12-0 lead in the first quarter.
Another interception, this time by defensive back Caeden Sweet, set up the Broncos’ third touchdown of the first half. The Cardinals attempted a double-pass, but the defender made a leaping over-the-shoulder grab to give the Broncos the ball back.
Hunter Schultz threw a 34-yard touchdown to Averey Dick on fourth-and-11 on the ensuing drive to make it 20-8 with 3:58 to go in the first half. It was the second fourth-down touchdown for the Broncos after Sours rammed in for a 3-yard score on their opening drive.
“We made a lot of big plays in the first half,” Gerding said. “It was a lot of the things we’d seen on film and talked about. But it just didn’t happen.”
Lisbon 12 8 0 8-28
LEM 0 14 14 12-42
L-Sours 3 run (run failed)
L-Adam 50 interception return (pass failed)
LEM-S. Romfo 3 run (Zimmer pass from S. Romfo)
L-Dick 34 pass from Schultz (Rasmusson pass from Schultz)
LEM-G. Romfo 2 run (S. Romfo pass from G. Romfo)
LEM-G. Romfo 1 run (M. Romfo pass from S. Romfo)
LEM-G. Romfo 1 run (pass failed)
LEM-S. Romfo 51 run (kick failed)
LEM-G. Romfo 4 pass from S. Romfo (pass failed)
L-Schultz 6 run (Schultz run)
RUSHING: L-Sours 28-165; Schultz 11-55; Greenley 2-13; Rasmusson 2-(-1). LEM-S. Romfo 21-135, G. Romfo 13-17, Tetrault 2-(-5).
PASSING: L-Schultz 4-8-1, 52 yards; Greenley 1-1-0, 9 yards, Sveum 0-1-0, 0 yards. LEM-S. Romfo 8-11-1, 130 yards, G. Romfo 3-6-1, 65 yards.
RECEIVING: L-Dick 2-40, Rasmusson 2-12, Sveum 1-9. LEM-G. Romfo 7-65, Tetrault 1-65, Kingzett 1-40, S. Romfo 1-14, T. Welsh 1-11.