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Packers, Deacons expect new-look opponents in their Dakota Bowl rematches

WEST FARGO-With 12 weeks of practice in the books, West Fargo head football coach Jay Gibson feels high school offenses have caught up with defenses which makes for some high-scoring football.The veteran coach said his Packers defense is expected...

West fargo will face Minot in the North Dakota Class 3A state championship Friday, Nov. 10, in the Fargodome. David Samson / The Forum
West fargo will face Minot in the North Dakota Class 3A state championship Friday, Nov. 10, in the Fargodome. David Samson / The Forum

WEST FARGO-With 12 weeks of practice in the books, West Fargo head football coach Jay Gibson feels high school offenses have caught up with defenses which makes for some high-scoring football.

The veteran coach said his Packers defense is expected to bend, but it can't break if they want to win a state championship.

After denying Bismarck a last-second touchdown for a 29-22 win in the North Dakota Class 3A football semifinals, the unbeaten Packers will play West Region No. 3-seed Minot at 6:40 p.m. Friday in the Fargodome for a Dakota Bowl championship. West Fargo last played in and won the state title game in 2003.

"It's a reward for a team that's really played well," Gibson said. "It should go right down to the last play of the game."

Minot (8-3) is coming off two road wins-a 66-37 state quarterfinal win at West Fargo Sheyenne and a 14-10 semifinal win at two-time defending state champion Bismarck Century.

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The Packers allowed more than 20 points for the first time all season in the semifinals and outscore opponents by an average of 30.5 points per game. Minot has outscored opponents 161 to 100 this year while the Packers (11-0) have outscored teams 441-104.

"If you're thinking you're going to walk in there and not allow them any points, you're not being realistic," Gibson said. "They have too many weapons. They are physical as all get out. They're really big. They stand out on the field and you look like the kid and they look like the adults. They're just huge."

The Packers won at Minot 36-20 in the season opener on Aug. 25. In that game, the Packers outscored the Magicians 20-6 in the second half. West Fargo totaled 356 yards of offense to Minot's 233. Gibson said the Packers had an upper hand because because of well-run routes and solid pass protection.

Creighton Rudolph, who has passed for 1,734 yards this season, completed 12 of 18 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown in the previous meeting with West Fargo while Minot's leading receiver Peyton Lamoureux caught four passes for 32 yards.

"Minot is playing the best ball out of anyone," Gibson said. "I just think they cover much better than they did early in the year. And then offensively, their quarterback is on fire. He's got a really strong arm. The end zone is the limit on wherever he's at on the field because he can really throw."

Shanley expects different St. Mary's team

FARGO-For the first time since 2002, Fargo Shanley defeated Bismarck St. Mary's 17-14 in a Sept. 29 game played in Bismarck. But Shanley head coach Troy Mattern is reminding his players that St. Mary's is still the defending state champions until someone knocks them off.

Shanley (10-0) hopes to dethrone St. Mary's (8-2) when the two teams meet at 3 p.m. Friday in the Fargodome for the Class 2A championship game.

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"It validated what our kids are working for," Mattern said. "I think by winning that game out in Bismarck, it's going to give us a huge lift knowing they beat them once."

In the first meeting, St. Mary's quarterback Cole Gendreau missed the second half due to an injury. Gendreau, now healthy, has completed 103 of 165 passes for 1,451 yards and 16 touchdowns this season while running for 385 yards and 10 touchdows. Luke Kambeitz has caught 46 passes for 685 yards and eight touchdowns, including one against Shanley in the regular season.

"We're two teams that want to be balanced," Mattern said. "But we want to create those mismatches for our passing game and free up the run."

After losing in last year's semifinals on a last-second touchdown pass to Kindred, Mattern said the Deacons responded well this year.

Cade Busek, who took over the starting quarterback position when Kaden Kueneman was injured earlier in the year, has thrown for 998 yards and 12 touchdowns and also leads the team with 466 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Jake Kava, who missed parts of the St. Mary's game due to injury, has 16 receptions for 272 yards and four touchdowns.

"There was a lot of pressure on this group," Mattern said. "We're excited to play for the opportunity of a state championship."

West fargo will face Minot in the North Dakota Class 3A state championship Friday, Nov. 10, in the Fargodome. David Samson / The Forum
Fargo Shanley quarterback Kade Kueneman and the Deacons face Bismarck St. Marys in the North Dakota Class 2A state championship Friday, Nov. 10, in the Fargodome. David Samson / The Forum

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