High school football in October just cannot be beat

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Posted 10/17/17 (Tue)

Passing Dreams
By Steve Andrist

A couple weeks ago, my bride decided she wanted to attend a high school football game.
For someone who had never attended any game until she was 40-something, someone who actually forbade her first-born, Graham, from playing the game lest he inflict damage to his expensively rehabilitated teeth, this seems odd.
But she gets that way this time of year, as the high school season heads toward the playoffs.
No doubt it’s because, once she relented and allowed her boys to suit up, she transformed from a pacifist into a maroon-clad mom whose voice often pierced the din of the crowd with the words, “Who’s got the tackle?!?!?!”
It’s also because, for the dozen years her boys donned the maroon and gray of Divide County High School, they always made the playoffs.
And so it was futile to argue against an October Friday night date at the gridiron.
Living in Bismarck-Mandan, there is always at least one game in town, what with five teams playing in the community.
But her hankering wasn’t for just any football game.
It had to be nine-man.
That limits the options, because Shiloh is the only nine-man team in town.
Secretly hoping it would be a road week for the Skyhawks, I checked the schedule to find not only were they playing at home, they were undefeated and they were playing the undefeated New Salem Holsteins for the conference championship.
No way was I going to get out of this one, so we headed for the lights and found a seat next to a couple 80-something great-grandparents from New Salem.
There likely was not a better football game in the entire state that night.
It was back and forth from start to finish, with lots of big plays, lead changes, drama and excitement. Finally, the Holsteins prevailed, 36-34.
Turns out we’ll be watching the Holsteins play again this coming weekend, and not because our neighbors have two nephews on the team.
This time, we’re going to watch and cheer for their opponents, the Maroons of Divide County.
Yet again, coaches Bob Brown and Nate Nelson have their team in the second round of the state playoffs.
During their long stretch of playoff football, this will be their second trip to New Salem.
The first one was unforgettable.
It was 2005, when our last-born, Evan, was a member of the Maroons team, only that time a trip to the Dakota Bowl state championship was on the line.
It was another one of those exciting, back-and-forth games, when you just had the feeling that whoever had the ball last would win.
Divide County, trailing by a point, had the ball last. But alas, time was running out when they reached the New Salem 19 yard line.
Quarterback Erik Bilstad quickly brought his team to the line of scrimmage and spiked the ball, stopping the clock with five ticks left .
That’s when Devin “Toe” Jacobson trotted onto to the field and calmly kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired, giving DC an 18-16 win.
Having serendipitously “scouted” New Salem’s team this year, we’ve got three things to point out: 11, 9 and 21.
Evan Henke, 11, is a raging bull of a quarterback/defensive end. That’s right, QB and D-line.
At 6’1” and 225, No. 11 runs like a fast fullback, throws on a rope, has unexpected escapability, stuffs the run and pressures the quarterback.
Brandon Zuroff, No. 9, is as speedy as they come. Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile, whether he’s running the ball or running routes.
Garret Soupir, No. 21, is content to wait until you’re keying on 11 and 9, then asserts himself when you least suspect it.
But Divide County’s got some skills, too, as evidenced by a 7-1 record and scoring an average of 44 points per game.
Here’s hoping for excitement equivalent to ‘05.