New Salem-Almont prevails in OT to win 1st state title since 1986 at Dakota Bowl
Brock Norton's 6-yard run and a conversion on the first OT possession held up as the game-winner after the Holsteins denied the Tornadoes' 2-point attempt to tie it.
FARGO — Down 14 points early against Cavalier in the Dakota Bowl XXX Class 9B state championship at the Fargodome on Friday, New Salem-Almont didn’t look away from adversity — the Holsteins took it head on.
The second-seeded Holsteins climbed back to tie the game against the fourth-seeded Tornadoes on a Brock Norton touchdown run with 3:20 to play, ultimately sending the game to overtime. The sophomore running back found the end zone once more on the first possession of OT, which eventually stood as the game-winner as New Salem-Almont held on to win 28-26 and clinch its first state championship since 1986.
Norton finished the game with 70 yards rushing on 18 carries, helping his team cap a perfect 12-0 season.
“It meant everything,” Norton said. “We probably have the best offensive line in the state, so it’s easy running in for scores.”
Cavalier went up 14-0 early in the second quarter thanks to a 1-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Sterling Enerson to senior running back Jacob Steele, and then a 56-yard strike from Enerson to junior receiver Zack Anderson.
From that point, the Holsteins limited the Tornadoes to just one more touchdown in regulation and battled back from eight points down twice.
“It was just, ‘Stay calm, we’ve been in this position before, and make plays when we need to make them,’ ” Norton said.
It’s been years in the making for New Salem-Almont head coach Steve Kleinjan, who has been at the helm for 26 seasons. The Holsteins have made three Dakota Bowl appearances under his watch and the third time was the charm.
“Unbelievable,” said an emotional Kleinjan. “It’s just crazy. It didn’t look good for us, but we hung in there, stayed the course and the kids just gutted it out. It showed what it takes and it shows what kind of kids we have. It just feels great and it’s an unbelievable feeling.”
The score was 14-6 going into halftime after Holsteins senior quarterback Ty Wolding put his team on the board with a 4-yard run.
Wolden's 6-yard touchdown run just 49 seconds into the third quarter pulled New Salem-Almont within two points. After another failed try, Cavalier responded on the next possession with a 17-yard run from Enerson.
Norton answered the call on the next Holsteins drive, capping off a 12-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown run. Sophomore tight end Wyatt Kuhn hauled in the 2-point pass from Wolding to tie the game at 20.
After a defensive stop, New Salem-Almont got the ball back at the 50-yard line with 30 seconds remaining. Three plays later, Wolding was picked off by Tornadoes senior safety Landon Carter. Carter attempted to run it all the way back for a walk-off win but was brought down, sending the game to overtime.
After Norton’s 6-yard run on the second play of OT gave the Holsteins their first lead of the game, Kuhn caught the conversion again to make it an eight-point game and put the pressure on Cavalier.
Enerson found Anderson on the next possession for a 3-yard score, but the Holsteins defense denied the 2-point try to hang on.
Wolding finished 10-of-15 passing for 95 yards while rushing for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Kuhn led Holsteins receivers with four catches for 45 yards.
Enerson went 16-of-29 through the air with 196 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 45 yards and one score while Carter finished with 10 receptions for 109 yards.
Kleinjan was named 9B Coach of the Year while Carter was named Senior Athlete of the Year as voted on by the North Dakota High School Coaches Association.
The Tornadoes finish the year 11-1 and have now lost in the 9B final for a fourth consecutive season.
Kleinjan said it means everything to bring a state title back to New Salem-Almont.
“When you win a state championship obviously you put yourself out there,” Kleinjan said. “It’s just a great experience and a great feeling.”
CV 8 6 0 6 6—26
NS 0 6 0 14 8—28
CV — Steele 1 pass from Enerson (Anderson pass from Enerson)
CV — Anderson 56 pass from Enerson (conversion failed)
NS — Wolding 4 run (conversion failed)
NS — Wolding 6 run (conversion failed)
CV — Enerson 17 run (conversion failed)
NS — Norton 4 run (Kuhn pass from Wolding)
NS — Norton 6 run (Kuhn pass from Wolding)
CV — Anderson 3 pass from Enerson (conversion failed)