D-G-F outlasts Fergus Falls in overtime thriller to clinch 8AAA football crown
D-G-F captured the Section 8AAA football title with a 22-20 overtime win over Fergus Falls on Thursday
FARGO — Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton senior Kaden Altobelli remembers the last 10 minutes of Thursday's Section 8AAA football championship in bits and pieces.
The final moments of the section final saw Fergus Falls tie the game with just over a minute remaining and both sides score on their first plays of overtime. Altobelli denied the 2-point conversion pass that would've tied the game and sent it to a second overtime. His pass breakup clinched the Section 8AAA football crown for D-G-F, though, Altobelli didn't know it at the time.
"It'll come to me later," Altobelli said. "It was pretty crazy."
Altobelli felt the ball on his arm, but wasn't sure if that meant he batted it away or Fergus Falls senior Cole Zierden had caught it. The next thing he saw was a flurry of black jerseys.
"I looked up and he was just standing there with this look on his face and I knew that I knocked it away," Altobelli said. "It was pretty amazing. Full of adrenaline. It was one of the best experiences of my life."
The top-seeded Rebels outlasted No. 2 seed Fergus Falls in a 22-20 overtime win Thursday at the Fargodome. The Otters finished the season at 8-3.
"We knew it was gonna be a dogfight," Rebels junior Jordan Summers said. "So we just kept going, had some heart and got it done."
The Otters lost by six points to D-G-F in the regular-season meeting last month.
Summers and his teammates had thought a lot about the dome and getting back to the state tournament. The Rebels lost the section championship — and with it a berth in the state tournament — by one point the last time they played at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome in 2019.
After an agonizing two years — exacerbated by the coronavirus and last year's pandemic-shortened season — D-G-F punched its ticket to the Class AAA state tournament. The No. 4-ranked Rebels (9-1) will play Section 5 champion Annandale or Spectrum in the quarterfinals Saturday, Nov. 13, at Buffalo High School.
"I waited for two years to get back in this building and show who is the section champion," senior Logan Johnson said. "We fulfilled (that), and I'm just so excited."
Johnson made sure Thursday wasn't the last game of high school career. With protection from an offensive line that played tremendously Thursday, Johnson pushed the pile into the end zone from 5 yards out to get the Rebels on the board in overtime. Johnson ran in the decisive 2-point conversion that gave D-G-F a 22-14 lead.
"I was just putting my head down and having my linemen push through. Our moving company, per se," Johnson said.
Fergus Falls answered right back with a 10-yard touchdown strike from senior quarterback Carter Thielke to Zierden. The Rebels had to get a stop on the Otters' 2-point attempt, and thanks to senior cornerback Altobelli, they did.
"McKale Pierson was out with an injury, so we all wanted to get him one more game," Altobelli said.
The Rebels were without standout running back McKale Pierson on Thursday. Summers stepped up in his absence and led the Rebels' ground game with 149 yards and a score.
D-G-F wasted no time marching downfield in the game's opening drive, grounding and pounding their way to an early 8-0 lead that would stick until the second half. The Rebels went 77 yards in the drive that took more than seven minutes. Sophomore Nick Waale made two defenders miss as he ran into the end zone from 10 yards out. Summers converted a fourth down with a run in the scoring drive and tacked on the conversion pass.
Both sides took the ball into the other's territory throughout the rest of the first half, but were unable to capitalize.
Fergus Falls senior running back Landon Thacker punched in a 3-yard touchdown run to get Fergus Falls on the board in the opening drive of the second half. Otters QB Thielke moved the chains with his arms to get his team into the red zone, passing for 45 yards in the drive that took almost six minutes.
The teams traded possessions to close out the third quarter. The Rebels opened the fourth frame with a time-consuming drive that gave them a 14-6 lead after Summers broke loose for a 23-yard score with just over five minutes remaining.
Fergus Falls pulled even at 14-all after Thacker plowed his way into the end zone from 2 yards out. Thielke ran in the conversion that forced overtime, but it wasn't enough.
"It was kind of a roller coaster, but we just (pushed) through it," Johnson said.
DGF 8 0 0 6 8—22
FF 0 0 6 8 6—20
DGF — Waale 10 run (Summers pass from Leach)
FF — Thacker 3 run (run failed)
DGF — Summers 23 run (pass failed)
FF — Thacker 2 run (Thielke run)
DGF — Johnson 5 run (Johnson run)
FF — Zierden 10 pass from Thielke (pass failed)