Not looking ahead: Blue Jays focused on Fargo North
Getting to the playoffs hasn't been easy for the Jamestown High School football team. In fact, it's only happened 13 times in the 38 years of North Dakota high school football playoffs.
Yet, that's where the Blue Jays find themselves after a postseason-clinching 17-13 win at Dickinson on Saturday. It's been five years since the Blue Jays were the No. 5 seed and lost the play-in game at Minot.
Play-in games are a thing of the past, evidenced by the fact that the Blue Jays would have made it last season under the old system. These Jays won't need it, though.
Jamestown (5-3) is set to be the No. 4 seed out of the West Region, and who it plays nobody knows. Grand Forks Red River beat West Fargo and Fargo South beat Fargo Davies on Saturday, meaning all four teams have a 4-1 record in the East Region. It will all be decided Friday night, when West Fargo meets Davies and South plays Red River.
But Jamestown coach Tim Fletcher isn't concerned about the playoffs, not with a home game against Fargo North on Friday night. North beat Devils Lake last weekend for its first win of the season.
"You want to (go) into the playoffs the right way; you wanna make sure you're taking care of business at the end of the season," Fletcher said.
Jamestown took care of business in a big way last week, again using defense to propel it to victory. The Blue Jays even got their first defensive touchdown of the season, when senior Caleb Ellingson took a fumble back 35 yards for a score that put them up 17-10 late in the first half.
"It happened to be a situation that was really advantageous for Caleb to scoop and score," Fletcher said. "That was a player making a big play for us. He did a nice job."
Turnovers were a problem, as Jamestown had four including a pair of interceptions thrown by quarterback Ross Monson. But the defense also forced five turnovers, two of which came on Eathan Gumke interceptions.
"That's great from an inside linebacker's perspective," said Fletcher of Gumke. "It's really great to see kids creating turnovers."
Monson may have had a few miscues, but he also had a game-changing 33-yard touchdown pass to receiver Joey Gebhardt over the middle to tie the game at 10.
"It was a great route by Gebby; he ran a crisp route and made a great catch," Fletcher said. "It was a well-thrown ball by Ross and it really gave us some momentum."
But there were definitely moments in which the Blue Jays lost their focus. They had the ball in the red zone in the final few minutes with a chance to bump their lead to seven with a field goal, when a personal foul and two unsportsmanlike conducts cost them 45 yards in penalties. In the end, it didn't matter.
"Athletes are athletes and in the heat of moment, things can cause an individual to have a lapse in judgment," Fletcher said. "That's unfortunate. At the same time, the kids responded."
Regardless of the team Jamestown meets in the playoffs, the Blue Jays have plenty to hang their hat on. They were within a touchdown of No. 1 Bismarck High and a single point of No. 3 Bismarck Century at halftime. Two weeks ago, Jamestown lost to No. 2-ranked Minot 8-0.
"We have no idea who our opponent will be; we won't find out until 9:30 or 10 o'clock (on Friday night)," Fletcher said. "Our focus is on Fargo North and winning the battle at home."
Sun sportswriter Chris Aarhus can be reached at (701) 952-8462 or firstname.lastname@example.org