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New passing identity has West Fargo football team flying high

West FargoAndy Gravdahl has an idea of how to stop West Fargo's offense but doesn't want to tell anyone. Nobody in North Dakota Class 3A high school football seems to know how.Plenty has changed for the Packers offense this year. By Jay Gibson's ...

West Fargo quarterback Andy Gravdahl fires a pass downfield against Fargo North.David Samson / The Pioneer
West Fargo quarterback Andy Gravdahl fires a pass downfield against Fargo North.David Samson / The Pioneer

West Fargo

Andy Gravdahl has an idea of how to stop West Fargo's offense but doesn't want to tell anyone. Nobody in North Dakota Class 3A high school football seems to know how.

Plenty has changed for the Packers offense this year. By Jay Gibson's account, this could be the most he's called for pass plays in his 27 seasons as West Fargo's head football coach.

But not much has changed for the Packers otherwise. For the third consecutive year, the top-ranked Packers (10-0) are the No. 1 seed out of the East Region going into the Class 3A semifinals. West Fargo hosts West Region No. 2-seeded Bismarck at 7 p.m. Friday.

Gibson has always wanted to rely on defense-West Fargo is allowing about 8 points per game this year-since offenses can go cold in any given game. He also doesn't like to pass often because so many more things have to go right like pass protection from the offensive line and timing between the quarterback and receivers.

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But Gibson has plenty of reason to be confident in his passing game this season. Gravdahl, in his second season as West Fargo's starting quarterback, has completed 129 of 201 passes (64.1 completion percentage) for 1,943 yards and 19 touchdowns to five interceptions. The senior is West Fargo's all-time passing leader with 3,304 yards for his career.

Gravdahl also shattered West Fargo's single-game passing yards record with 400 and the single-game total offense record with 419 yards.

"All the positions can catch the ball," Gibson said. "Having a smart quarterback like Andy, we have many, many, many, many combinations, and we can go to different areas."

Senior receiver Joe Pistorius said his older brothers, who also played for West Fargo, are jealous of how much the Packers are passing this season.

"(Gravdahl) spreads the ball around really well and makes the right decisions every time," Pistorius said. "He always makes the right decision and doesn't force anything."

Gravdahl was motivated by West Fargo's loss in the semifinals last season to work in the offseason through training programs. He studied footwork, route combinations and situational responsibilities. He said he feels stronger than ever.

"Last year, I was a little jittery," said Gravdahl, who has also run the ball 50 times this season for 450 yards and nine touchdowns. "But I feel relaxed with this team. I know everyone is doing their job. I can rely on anyone at any time."

Pistorius leads West Fargo with 700 yards on 32 catches (21.9 yards per catch) and five touchdowns. Jacob Faircloth has caught 34 passes for 442 yards and six touchdowns including his single-game school record performance of 12 catches for 169 yards. Gravdahl also throws to receiver Tanner Zepeda and tight end Luke Lennon.
"They have good vision and understanding of where the defenders are," Gibson said. "They're catching the ball and already thinking of where they're going to move."

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The Packers can also run the ball. Jared Franek has totaled 480 yards on 69 carries (7 yards per carry) and 16 touchdowns while Alex Sell has 66 carries for 669 yards (10.1 yards per carry) and 13 touchdowns.

"That really opens up our offense where it's not really predictable," Pistorius said. "We start with the pass right away and get them on their feet and then when they play pass coverage, we can run it and Alex and Jared do the rest."

The Packers want to get long drives going to gain time of possession and exhaust defenses. That's possible, Gibson said, because the Packers have multiple dimensions to their offense.

"It's really cool," Gibson said. "You need to have all ingredients, and this seems to be the year where we have most of the ingredients."

What: N.D. Class 3A football semifinals

Who: Bismarck at West Fargo

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Radio: 740-AM, 1100-AM TV: WDAY'Z Xtra

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