CHAMPIONS: Blue Jays bring home Dakota Bowl trophy
The Jamestown High School football team faced Bismarck St. Mary's in the Class A State Championship Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 in Fargo..
FARGO -- Nov. 12, 2021, is going on record as Bill Nelson's fourth-best day ever.
That's the day the head Jamestown High School football coach and his team took home their first outright state championship title since 1937.
"There are four special dates in my life," Nelson said. "When I got married, when my first son was born, when my second son was born and today. There's just something about this group of kids. I said it early on. This is a special group of young men and they proved it tonight."
Nelson and the Blue Jays defeated Bismarck St. Mary's 41-27 in the Class A 11-man state title tilt. The Jays finished out the season at 10-2 and were 4-0 in the Class A West Region standings. Jamestown's only two losses came against Class AA's Fargo Shanley and Mandan. The Jays marked the Saints' only two losses, all year.
"This is going to be my No. 1 memory obviously," Jakob Schempp said. "I've been working toward this since first grade. There are not many moments that can beat this one."
Schempp, a senior running back for the Jays, has been in and out of action the last few weeks due to a shoulder injury but was back in living color on Friday. Schempp eclipsed the entire rest of the field's ground game, running for 152 yards on 29 carries. The next leading rusher was St. Mary's Isaac Felchle, who recorded 33 yards.
Prior to his last ever prep football game, Schempp had recorded 114 carries for over 500 yards on the ground. In his absence, the Blue Jays turned to junior Aden Braun, and while Braun had a standout game against Fargo North last week in the state semifinals with 176 yards, it was Schempp's turn to get some yardage.
"My shoulder is still not 100 percent but it's the last game, we couldn't hurt it anymore," Schempp said. "I have always been the smallest guy on the field so I just run with everything I've got and it turns out sometimes. Speed and physicality beat size any day."
It was a barn burner in the first half, with both teams mimicking each other's last move.
After forcing a 3 and out, Blue Jay quarterback Payton Hochhalter went deep to senior wideout Devin Beach who initially picked up 20 yards, but after suffering a hit and fumbling the ball, St. Mary's recovered and took over on their own 24.
On the next play, the Saints fumbled the ball allowing Preston Kroeber to take over on the 21-yard line. On the give, Schempp picked up another three yards. Schempp broke the ice, evading a tackler to land in the endzone. A bad snap to Preston Kroeber forced a failed two-point conversion for the Jays.
Both teams exchanged 3 and outs, winding the clock down to the 1-minute, 12-second mark. A methodical 12-play St. Mary's drive finally got the Saints on the board. A short pass from Nick Schumacher to Isaac Felchle evened things up at one score apiece. The Jays drew a collective sigh of relief as Brady Haskell's kick bounced off the right upright.
With a little over a minute to play, St. Mary's booted it away to Kroeber, who turned on the speed to pick up 78 yards on the punt return. The Saints slowed the Jays down slightly, holding Schempp to a two-yard pickup but having Hochhalter in the pocket gave the Jays some dimension on offense.
The junior let fly a 12-yard pass to the left corner of the endzone where senior Adam Kallenbach was waiting. Kallenbach's first catch of the day put the Jays up 12-6. The senior wideout and kicker doubled down punching it through the uprights to make it 13-7.
Kallenbach hauled in three catches for 33 yards while Beach recorded six receptions for 56 yards.
"They are so freakin resilient, they don't stop," Nelson said of his team. "Credit to St. Mary's, they made play after play after play and our kids just stuck with it. They didn't stop. They kept believing."
The Blue Jays offensive line was unable to stop Schumacher from making the 68-yard connection to Brit Senftner to land a game-tying score, but the five seniors up front were able to give Hochhalter plenty of time to make his passes. The junior QB was 17-for-28 with 148 yards through the air, averaging 8.7 per play.
Hochhalter completed a six-yard strike to Beach with 7:19 left in the second. St. Mary's came from behind to even it again with a 17-yard sling from Schumacher to Felchle. Schumacher was 19-for-35 for 267 yards passing.
The momentum was swinging in the Jays' favor after Hochhalter completed touchdown pass No. 3 to Brode Hillstrom to make it 27-20 Jays, but a shaky handoff forced a Schempp fumble that was recovered by the Saints. Braun returned the favor, forcing another Saints fumble.
Thomas Allmer picked the ball up off the turf to run it in to give his team a 13-point advantage. Kallenbach's PAT cleared the cross-bar by just enough to make it a two-score game.
"How awesome was that," Nelson said. "That was a big man getting the love."
Schumacher had one more touchdown score in him before an injury sent him to the sidelines. With 9:14 left in the title tilt. the senior made a 24-yard run to put the Saints within one score.
After Schumacher went to the sidelines, the Blue Jay defense was all over backup quarterback Thomas Kraljic and the Saints' shaky offense. Schempp capped off the scoring with a 36-yard run right up the middle.
"These kids work hard, they are smart, they make good decisions and I am damn lucky as a head coach," Nelson said. 'I am at a loss for words. I just want to hug all the kids. It's a special day in Blue Jay country that's for sure."
Jamestown 41, Bismarck St. Mary's 27
JHS 13 7 14 7 -- 41
SM 13 7 0 7 -- 27
JHS: 1-yard run by Jakob Schempp (two-point conversion failed), 8:25
SM: 1-yard run by Isaac Felchle (kick failed), 1:12
JHS: 14-yard pass by Hochhalter to Kallenbach (Kallenbach kick good), 0:20
SM: 68-yard pass by Schumacher to Senftner (Haskell kick good), 0:09
JHS: 6-yard pass by Hochhalter to Beach (kick good), 7:19
SM: 17-yard pass by Schumacher to Felchle (kick good), 1:57
JHS: 13-yard pass by Hochhalter to Brode Hillstrom, (kick good), 5:51
JHS: Fumble recovery by Thomas Allmer (kick good), 0:00
SM: 24-yard run by Schumacher (kick good), 9:14
JHS: 38-yard run by Schempp (kick good), 2:47