Back to the Bowl: Jays take down Spartans in state semifinals
The Jamestown High School football team hosted Fargo North on Nov. 5 at Charlotte and Gordon Hansen Stadium.
Bill Nelson began his coaching career with Fargo North head coach Adam Roland in the mix of athletes.
23 years later at Charlotte and Gordon Hansen Stadium, the Jamestown High School head football coach reached a new level and Roland was right there watching.
The No. 2 seeded Blue Jays made short work of the third-seeded Fargo North squad, topping them 41-24 to advance to the Class A State Championship next Friday at approximately 2:30 p.m. The Blue Jays are set to rematch against Class AA defending state champs Bismarck St. Mary's at the Fargodome.
"This is such a special group of young men," Nelson said. "They fought and I am so dang proud of them. I am so proud of the coaches. They just keep putting their noses to the grindstone and keep working and working and working and believing and I am very, very proud of them."
The Blue Jays bested the Saints 20-7 in week three. Nelson's squad was the first team to defeat Bismarck St. Mary’s since Hillsboro did in the 2019 State semifinals. The two-score game was St. Mary's only loss of the season.
It took the Jays all of 68 seconds to get on the board in the Class A semifinal tilt.
The four-play, 65-yard drive got started with a 12-yard rush from senior wideout Adam Kallenbach to get past the Spartans' 45-yard line. Jakob Schempp picked up another three yards to bring up 2nd and 7. After an incomplete pass to Beach brought up 3rd and 8, Payton Hochhalter made a quick pass to Preston Kroeber who went on a 51-yard dash to the endzone. The trip to the endzone was Kroeber's eighth of the season.
"I think that first quarterfinal game last week kind of got those jitters out for everybody," Kroeber said. "This game we were still fighting to stay alive. We knew that we were going to have to strike early.
"We found a few holes early and then finally I caught a ball and got a breakaway."
Fargo North was knocking on the door with 10 minutes to play in the first quarter until Kallenbach intercepted quarterback Daniel Boutain. Kallenbach was wrapped up by the senior signal-caller at the Spartan 35 yard line. Fargo North's defense shoved Schempp back three yards but on the next play Hochhalter put up a 14-yard pass to Kroeber to put the Jays on the 25-yard line.
On 1st and 10, Hochhalter let loose for Kallenbach and collected on a 24-yard touchdown pass. With still half a quarter to play, the Blue Jays had pitched seven plays, for 99 yards and two touchdowns.
Those numbers quickly turned to eight plays, 176 yards, and three touchdowns.
On the Jays' third drive of the game, Hochhalter dropped back and wound up for Brode Hillstrom. Hillstrom hauled in the pass to go 77 yards down the middle of the field to put the home team up 18-0 with 5:15 left to play in the half. Due to a couple of missed extra points earlier in the game, Nelson called for a two-point conversion attempt.
The Jays responded racking up the extra two points with a slant out to the right side of the endzone.
A lengthy drive by the Spartans got the visitors all the way down to the one-yard line but the Blue Jays' defensive line held tough and on 4th and 1, the Blue Jays brought pressure against quarterback Daniel Boutain and forced the senior to throw it away.
Nelson said in a pregame interview that the Spartans, much like Grand Forks Red River, were a physical, run-heavy team. Due to pressure from the Jays' defense, and the absence of senior running back Mason Lockwood, the Jays' were able to effectively shut down the Spartans ground game.
Lockwood sustained a sprained ankle early in the game.
"Being able to decipher what they were going to do really helps you figure out what your job is each play," Kroeber said of being able to limit the Spartans on offense.
The Blue Jays held the ball for a large majority of the rest of the half. The 14 play, 98-yard drive was capped off with another touchdown strike from Hochhalter to Kallenbach with 4:21 left to play in the half. The conversion proved no good but it didn't seem to matter too much to the Jays.
With 18 seconds remaining in the half, Hochhalter let loose to Kallenbach again. A 32-yard touchdown strike and a made extra point, gave the Blue Jays a 33-0 advantage. The Jays averaged more than 22 yards on each of the three plays it took to get down the endzone.
Kallenbach was the Jays' leading receiver with three catches for 62 yards unofficially.
"It just kept clicking," Nelson said of the Blue Jay offense. "We got them off-kilter and off their game a little bit and suddenly they were playing catch-up mode. The kids executed and got to work. Plain and simple."
While Hochhalter unofficially managed 10-for-18 for 277 yards through the air, the Blue Jays' run game gave the Spartans' defense a couple of different looks.
Junior Aden Braun has taken over as the Jays' main tailback the last two games as leading senior rusher Jakob Schempp has been nursing a few injuries. Both Schempp and Braun took the field against the Spartans but late in the third, it was all Braun.
"I used to be a running back, back in the day," Braun said. "So I know how to run the ball but it was definitely different. I have to give credit to all of the linemen and receivers making all of those blocks for me. I wouldn't be able to get all those yards and touchdowns without them."
The junior racked up more than 50 yards on his first trip to the endzone. A 17-yard rush up the middle by Braun put the Jays up 39-0. Kroeber took the bad snap into the endzone to make it 41-0. Unofficially Braun rushed for 181 yards on 19 carries.
"He doesn't stop," Nelson said of Braun. "His nickname is Bomber. Aden goes and goes and goes and goes some more. He's got a lot of pop and a lot of juice in the tank.
"That first half was pretty special. That was a lot of fun."
Fargo North started to have some fun in the fourth quarter.
Down 41-0, Boutain aired out a 22-yard touchdown pass to Nathaniel Fritel to end a six-play, 65-yard drive. The conversion from Boutain to Carson Shultis made it 41-8.
The Spartans continued to fight through the final frame. The senior QB connected with Fritel on a 76-yard pass play to stop the winding clock. Down 41-14, James Miller made a jump pass to Carter Zeller to pick up another two points.
Fargo North wasn't done.
With 1:25 left to play, Boutain floated out a pass to Zeller in the endzone to make it 41-22. Peder Haugo made it a 17-point game but the damage done by the Jays' in the first, was too great to overcome.
"It's quite the experience to be here," Braun said. "I never thought I would be in this type of situation. I've always dreamed about it but I trusted in our team and knew that if we all believed in the system that we could make it. I knew we could make it."
Jamestown 41, Fargo North 24
FN 0 0 0 24 -- 24
JHS 20 13 8 0 -- 41
JHS: 51-yard pass by Hochhalter to Kroeber (Adam Kallenbach kick failed)
JHS: 24-yard pass by Hochhalter to Kallenbach (kick failed)
JHS: 77-yard pass by Hochhalter to Hillstrom (conversion good), 5:15.
JHS: Pass by Hochhalter to Kallenbach (conversion failed), 4:21
JHS: 32-yard pass by Hochhalter to Kallenbach (kick good), 0:02.
JHS: 17-yard run by Braun (conversion good).
FN: 22-yard pass by Boutain to Fritel (conversion good)
FN: 76-yard pass by Boutain to Fritel (conversion good)
FN: Pass by Boutain to Zeller (conversion good)