Opinion Corner: Well deserved 9-man titleIt seems necessary that championship runs face a few bumps along the way. New Rockford-Sheyenne certainly had theirs. There was undoubtedly a time when each New Rockford-Sheyenne football fan felt like the end was near. The perfect season could have ended in a 38-32 double overtime win over Lakota-Adams-Edmore in the regular season. It could have come in a 48-42 victory over Cavalier in overtime.
By: Chris Aarhus Sun Sports Writer, The Jamestown Sun
It seems necessary that championship runs face a few bumps along the way.
New Rockford-Sheyenne certainly had theirs. There was undoubtedly a time when each New Rockford-Sheyenne football fan felt like the end was near.
The perfect season could have ended in a 38-32 double overtime win over Lakota-Adams-Edmore in the regular season. It could have come in a 48-42 victory over Cavalier in overtime.
The biggest culprit could have been LaMoure-Litchville-Marion. With 20 seconds remaining in the opening-round of the playoffs in New Rockford, the Loboes were feeling good about themselves. They led 26-22 and only a giant play would spoil the win.
New Rockford-Sheyenne was a team full of giant plays. It’s likely if a New Rockford-Sheyenne fan ever felt doubt about winning a state championship, it was during that moment.
Still, Ethan Haley found Seth Gilliss on a post pattern for a 30-yard touchdown pass to keep the dream alive. The dream became complete on Friday in Grand Forks.
A 40-22 win over Divide County gave the Rockets the state championship they’ve long desired. It was a close game — 26-22 late in the fourth quarter. But as they have all season, the Rockets scored points in bunches when they needed them the most.
A strong athletic community already, it’s not as if New Rockford-Sheyenne had anything to prove. The school is good every year in basketball, volleyball, football and baseball.
And while state championships are relatively rare for most Class B schools, New Rockford-Sheyenne now has two in the last seven years. It beat Bottineau in boys basketball in double overtime in Minot in 2005 in what was arguably the best state championship game in North Dakota history.
What LaMoure-L-M, Cavalier and Lakota-A-E proved to be were bumps in the road and most championship teams have them. When the Beach girls basketball team won the state title a few years back, it squeaked by a young Thompson team in the opening round of the state tournament.
When making predictions, it’s easy to side with the team that’s blown everyone out. But don’t forget that teams tend to lose the ability to play in close games when they’re constantly up by 50 at halftime of each contest. Divide County didn’t lose that ability; the Maroons were a solid, physical, legitimate title contender.
But win after win in close games elevated New Rockford-Sheyenne to new heights, led by standout junior quarterback Ethan Haley, a no-brainer for all-state. Fullback Josh Edmonson was a load to handle and enjoyed running over people. Alex Perleberg, a senior tailback, was probably even less flashy than Edmonson. But Perleberg, as has been written before, was an unsung hero on this team. He had quite a year and his ability to move the chains should be noted.
Receiver/quarterback Seth Gilliss was also an unsung hero, catching TD passes against LaMoure-L-M and Cavalier in the playoffs. Well-spoken for a sophomore, expect Gilliss and Haley to be strong next year, even if the Rockets struggle to replace so many valuable seniors.
The offensive and defensive lines should probably receive the most credit. The amount of time Haley received to throw the ball was incredible, though part of it was on his own merit. He was good at avoiding the rush.
But many of New Rockford-Sheyenne’s plays looked broken; that’s just how the Rockets like it, with the defense constantly guessing. When the offense broke down, often times, the defense would follow, and that’s what the Rockets’ offense counted on. It worked well most of the time and culminated in the ultimate prize.
A well-deserved state championship for the New Rockford-Sheyenne Rockets.
Sun sports writer Chris Aarhus can be reached at (701) 952-8462 or by email at email@example.com