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Verndale OK after coach KO'd

Even though he was placed in a neck collar and carted off the field in an ambulance, Verndale coach Mike Mahlen was in good spirits Thursday at the Fargodome.

Even though he was placed in a neck collar and carted off the field in an ambulance, Verndale coach Mike Mahlen was in good spirits Thursday at the Fargodome.

"The things a coach has to do to fire up his team," Mahlen joked after returning to the Fargodome.

Mahlen missed the final three quarters of No. 1-ranked Verndale's 30-0 victory against No. 4-rated Isle for the Minnesota 9-man, Section 4 championship.

"Everyone was kind of mad," said Verndale running back Tyler Fuller. "Everyone needed to calm down and we did a good job of that. We just needed to focus on the game and win it for Mahlen."

The defending state champion Pirates (11-0) defeated Isle (10-1) in the section title game for a second consecutive season.

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"This meant a lot because no one thought we would because of all the seniors we lost from last year," said Verndale quarterback Cory Umland.

Mahlen was knocked from the game late in the first quarter. Isle running back Tyler Walters collided with Mahlen after he was forced out of bounds in front of the Verndale sideline. Mahlen fell backwards onto the field and his head snapped back and hit the turf.

The game was delayed more than 20 minutes as Mahlen was stabilized and eventually loaded into an ambulance.

"I knew where I was at, but I just couldn't say it," said Mahlen, who was knocked unconscious for a time.

"I've coached for 35 years and played 14 years of football and I've never been injured before. It was weird. That's for sure."

Verndale assistant coaches Tim Seaton, Jeff Moore and Matt Jones took control the final three quarters.

"The players were very concerned," Moore said. "Was he OK? What was going on? They didn't know what was going on."

However, the players responded, outscoring Isle 24-0 in the last three quarters. Verndale methodically pulled away, scoring a touchdown in each of the last three quarters. Fuller paced a potent ground game, rushing for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.

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Umland scored the only points the Pirates would need on a 30-yard TD run -- the only touchdown Mahlen saw -- in the first quarter.

Verndale limited Isle to 171 yards of total offense. The Pirates forced three turnovers.

"I have three able assistant coaches," Mahlen said. "I wasn't concerned about that part. We are all on the same page."

Isle 0 0 0 0-- 0

Verndale 6 8 8 8--30

V--Umland 30 run (run failed)

V--T. Fisher 1 run (T. Fisher pass from Umland)

V--Fuller 34 run (T. Fisher pass from Umland)

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V--Fuller 60 run (Johnson pass from Umland)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: I, Rogers 15-67, Miller 10-39, Walters 7-14, Springer 1-8, Pfaff 1-5, St. John 1-3, Remer 2-1. V, Fuller 18-168, T. Fisher 17-57, Umland 13-70.

PASSING: I, Miller 5-20-2 44 yards. V, Umland 5-9-0 70.

RECEIVING: I, Rogers 3-25, Walters 1-18, Remer 1-1. V, Johnson 1-31, Carr

1-17, Fuller 1-9, T. Fisher 2-10.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513

Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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