Blue Jays hunt home playoff game today
A weird afternoon of football transpired for Jamestown High School last Saturday in Devils Lake.
A fluky, fourth-quarter touchdown pass that was deflected by Jamestown ended up going 65 yards and into the end zone, winning homecoming for the Firebirds. The visiting Blue Jays moved the ball well, albeit turning it over twice, but just never really felt to be the lesser team.
That is until a last-ditch, fourth-down toss into the end zone by Blue Jay sophomore quarterback Tommy Falk was batted to the ground by Devils Lake and the Jays lost 14-13.
"A lot of things went well for us," Jamestown head coach Bill Nelson said. "We ran the ball pretty effectively, but we didn't pass block very well—across the board—and we didn't tackle very well, and those are two things that we've done pretty good up to this point."
Jamestown (5-3) was already locked into the postseason prior to last week's contest and can still sew up a home playoff game with a win today in the regular-season finale at Grafton (3-5). A Blue Jay victory or a Watford City (5-3) loss to Wahpeton (4-4) will give Jamestown the fourth seed for the upcoming Class AA playoffs beginning Oct. 28.
Falk and Jamestown skill players Jared Harr, Zach Petrek, Brandon Dallmann and Jared Kallenbach combined for 240 rushing yards and two scores in Devils Lake. But a first-half lost fumble and a second-half interception stifled momentum in a game that lacked much of that throughout.
"I think it was more focus than it was effort, and we pride ourselves in effort in everything we do," Nelson said. "This week we ratcheted things up and put the kids on notice. This is playoff time.
"Not to take anything away from Devils Lake," the coach added. "Coach (Jake) Wateland and his coaching staff had a good game plan, but we're capable of much better than that."
Today's opponent, the Spoilers, were shutout three times in their first four games to Bismarck St. Mary's (49-0), Shanley (48-0) and Watford City (32-0). Grafton's victories have come against Valley City (26-16), Wahpeton (20-8) and Turtle Mountain (34-20).
Grafton has a power back in the form of 225-pound senior Marcus Niemann. Niemann carried the ball 12 times for 43 yards in a 21-6 loss to Devils Lake on Oct. 6, while fellow senior running back Hector Reyes toted the rock seven times for 45 yards.
"They've got some pretty good athletes at running back. Grafton needs some things to happen, but they'll be in playoff-mode as well," Nelson said. "Know your assignments and do your job. If one guy doesn't do his job it becomes a problem."
Jamestown will be without starting junior tight end and linebacker Marcus Hochhalter for the game. Hochhalter, who Nelson didn't rule out for a possible late-playoff game return, suffered a lower-leg injury on the defensive side of the ball against the Firebirds.
"He's a very important part on both sides of the ball," Nelson said of Hochhalter. "I hate to use that cliched term, but next man up."
Nelson is confident last week's strange Saturday is already well in the past.
"We've had a good week of practice," Nelson said. "One of our No. 1 goals was to host a playoff game and that's well within our reach."