Wells County hoping to go out in styleAll season, Wells County has approached football with a one-game-at-a-time philosophy. Now the Bears have run out of games — for this season and beyond. Wells County meets Wyndmere-Lidgerwood at 3 p.m. today in the North Dakota 9-man high school football championship game at the Alerus Center. It’s a grand finale for the Wells County program. Due to declining numbers, the program will fold and Wells County will join Harvey in a co-op next fall, an arrangement that was approved last fall.
By: By Greg DeVillers, Forum Communicati0ns Co., The Jamestown Sun
All season, Wells County has approached football with a one-game-at-a-time philosophy.
Now the Bears have run out of games — for this season and beyond.
Wells County meets Wyndmere-Lidgerwood at 3 p.m. today in the North Dakota 9-man high school football championship game at the Alerus Center. It’s a grand finale for the Wells County program. Due to declining numbers, the program will fold and Wells County will join Harvey in a co-op next fall, an arrangement that was approved last fall.
“Did we want to see this happening? No,” Wells County coach Jon Bertsch said. “Everybody wants to keep their own program. It was a necessity, something that had to be done.
“It’s all about the numbers. We have 15 players now. We’d have eight high school boys playing next year, and six the year after. We do have more boys in high school. But some aren’t into athletics, and some play other sports, but they’re not into football.”
The end, however, has not been a rallying cry for the Bears this season. Winning is the drive.
“Our school has never gotten past the semifinals (of the state football playoffs),” senior quarterback Caleb Rogelstad said. “Now, in our last year, to be in the state final, it is pretty sweet.”
But, he added, during the game, “I won’t be thinking about that. We just look at things game to game. That’s what we’ve done all year.”
What the Bears have done has been to exceed expectations.
After a season-opening two-point loss to New Rockford-Sheyenne, Wells County has rattled off 10 straight wins, capturing the Region 4 title.
Considering the low numbers, the graduation losses of several players from last season’s team and quality programs such as St. John, Towner-Granville-Upham and North Star, it’s success that Bertsch hadn’t anticipated.
“Our superintendent asked me at the start of the season what I thought our record would be, and I said 5-3,” Bertsch said. “Realistically, when you look at our numbers, we were one or two injuries away from being a mediocre team. I thought we’d be competitive. But I didn’t think it would go like this. It’s been an amazing experience.
“These kids work hard. They play hard. When you critique them, they take any criticisms, then go out and work some more.”
Wells County also survived a key injury. Travis Flick has rushed for more than 1,900 yards. But in the second round of the playoffs, he suffered a knee injury and has seen limited action in the quarterfinals and semifinals. The big-offense Bears suddenly became a stingy defensive team, allowing just eight points in each of their last two wins against some of the state’s elite teams.
“Other guys have stepped up and played big,” Bertsch said. “Don’t ask me how they keep doing it. It’s pretty amazing.”
That pretty much sums up Wells County’s last season.
“We figured we could compete,” Rogelstad said. “We probably didn’t think we had any chance of getting this far.”
vs. Wells County, 3 p.m., Alerus Center
Coach: Jon Bertsch.
How they got here: Wells County is the No. 1 seed from Region 4. After a first-round bye in the playoffs, the Bears defeated Divide County 28-26, St. John 27-8 and, in the semifinals, Mott-Regent 28-8.
Offensive starters: Sr. QB Caleb Rogelstad, sr. TB Travis Flick, jr. FB Riley Hovland, sr. TE Kyle Hart, sr. TE Zach Johnson, soph. FL Koby Houchin, sr. G Chris Hoff, sr. G Michael Kiefat, sr. C Alex Vanness.
Defensive starters: DE Kiefat, DE Johnson, jr. T Tony Frison, T Hoff, OLB Hart, OLB Hovland, jr. MLB Cory Schimelfenig, CB Houchin, S Rogelstad.
Rushing leaders: Flick 181-1,912, Rogelstad 87-608, Houchin 60-340, Schimelfenig 31-174, Hovland 35-159.
Passing leader: Rogelstad 34-69-4, 438, 7 TDs.
Receiving leaders: Houchin 22-298, Hart 6-77, Hovland 5-81.
Coach: Scott Strenge.
How they got here: Wyndmere-Lidgerwood is the No. 2 seed from Region 2. In the playoffs, W-L has beaten New Rockford-Sheyenne 52-12, Napoleon-G-S 36-24, top-ranked Hillsboro 50-8 and, in the semifinals, Thompson 40-22.
Offensive starters: Sr. QB Brock Wieber, sr. RB Kelly Illies, sr. WR Ryan Orth, sr. WR Jacob Meslow, soph. TE Luis Vasquez, soph. TE Jeff Illies, jr. C Matt Sander, sr. G Tyler Meyer, soph. G Cameron Frank.
Defensive starters: DE Jeremy Gleason, DE J. Illies, NG Meyer, LB Vasquez, LB K. Illies, LB Frank, CB Orth, jr. S Adam Bell, S Meslow.
Rushing leaders: Wieber 109-923, K. Illies 107-918, Orth 56-538, Bell 34-256, Ryan Honl 18-181, Lance Illies 28-158.
Passing leader: Wieber 53-99-3, 1,168, 13 TDs, Bell 16-29-1, 339, 5 TDs.
Receiving leaders: Vasquez 24-547, Orth 23-535, J. Illies 10-188, K. Illies 6-73.
DeVillers reports on sports at the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.