Field Farewell? Blue Jays possibly playing final game at Ernie Gates
Unless Jamestown is able to secure a home playoff football game, Thursday night's clash hosting third-ranked Bismarck is scheduled to be the final game played by the Blue Jays at historic Ernie Gates Field.
Known as Washington Field prior to 1973, Jamestown High School has been playing football at its current location behind Washington Elementary School along Fourth Avenue Northwest since 1928. Construction is scheduled to commence this fall on an $11 million joint capital project between Jamestown Public Schools and the University of Jamestown to renovate UJ's Taylor Stadium, where both the Blue Jays and the Jimmies are slated to begin playing home football games in 2021.
"The potential of it being the last game at Ernie Gates for these guys, that's looming on everybody's minds," said Jamestown football coach Bill Nelson. "There's gonna be a lot of emotions flying around."
There's also quite a bit at stake. The winner between the Blue Jays (4-1) and the Demons (5-0) will bring into focus the top two seeds in the Class AAA West Region for the upcoming playoffs along with top-ranked Bismarck Century (5-0). Bismarck will finish the regular season next Wednesday hosting Century, while Jamestown will travel to Mandan (2-3).
Mark Gibson's head coaching career at Bismarck started with a playoff loss to the Blue Jays at Ernie Gates Field in 1999. Jamestown bested Bismarck twice at home that season, thwarting a Bismarck two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter to win 14-13 on Oct. 8, before a missed 33-yard field goal attempt by Bismarck in the final six seconds of play 18 days later handed the Jays a 15-14 victory over the Demons in the opening round of the playoffs.
Gibson has since gone on to coach Bismarck to six state championships.
"I won't miss it," Gibson lightheartedly joked of Jamestown's home field. "It's a shame. I love the atmosphere -- it was always a great atmosphere there -- and I remember many, many years having battles with (JHS) coach (Bill) Cahill on the other sideline."
Beginning in 2000, Gibson and the Demons have rifled off 18 straight victories over Jamestown and are producing nearly 46 points per game in 2020 behind a rushing attack that's averaging north of 350 yards per contest. Bismarck returned its entire offensive line this fall in senior guards Caleb Dockter and Nicholas Mortenson, senior center Cade Casey, senior tackle Brady Bauman and junior tackle Conor Hedges.
Complemented by senior fullback Brandt Kringlie, who was injured in 2019, and the blocking for junior all-state running back Isaiah Huus has been top shelf.
The Demons have dispatched Williston, Dickinson, Mandan, Bismarck Legacy and Minot, rolling up an eye-catching 480 yards rushing in last Saturday's 41-14 victory over the Magicians.
"I don't think we've ever had that with an entire group coming back," Gibson said. "Those guys have seen a lot of different fronts and we've seen a lot of eight- and nine-man boxes. I think the one thing is, those kids can all run and they're very athletic."
Huus has been the offense's primary benefactor. He's up to 954 yards rushing with 18 touchdowns after leading the conference in 2019 as a sophomore with 1,012 yards and 11 scores on the ground during the regular season.
At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Huus has the ability to wear defenses down over four quarters. The running back churned out 260 yards and three scores against Minot.
"You don't mess around with him on his upper body," Nelson said of Huus, who ran for 204 yards on 17 carries in last year's 49-25 victory over the Blue Jays. "Get on his legs, get on his ankles, and if he gets any daylight he's gonna go.
"There's no ands, ifs or buts about it, Bismarck High is gonna run the football so we've gotta be stout and assignment sound. The margin of error is small, but it's one of those things where we have the capability to butt heads with them."
Jamestown suffered its first loss of the season last Friday at No. 1 Century, 45-0, but had a chance to get on the scoreboard first before having a 56-yard drive stall inside the Century 15-yard line on the game's opening possession.
Century was able to produce points on its first four possessions, forcing the Jays into a pass-heavy offensive game script. Blue Jay quarterback Ty Monson completed 21 of 36 passes for 165 yards, while JHS only gained 20 rushing yards on 15 carries.
"Flat-out, they wore us down and we weren't able to get some stuff going offensively, but the kids kept fighting and battling," Nelson said. "We gotta get some run stuff going. I think there were some things that were there that maybe we didn't capitalize on that we utilized that first series."
Monson has thrown for 1,050 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, and Gibson is very familiar with Jamestown's Monson family of quarterbacks. Gibson coached Ty's brother, current University of Jamestown senior safety Ross Monson, to a West victory in the 2015 North Dakota 11-man Shrine Bowl in Grand Forks.
Ross Monson completed 10 of 18 passes for 158 yards in the West's 16-14 victory over the East at the Alerus Center.
"If (Ty's) anything like his brother, I know how tough he is and so that's a huge concern for us," Gibson said. "Coach Nelson has done a heckuva job with that team. I think they're very dynamic offensively, something we're probably not used to. Defensively, we're probably gonna see eight or nine guys in the box and dare us to throw. We're gonna have to mix things up."
Bismarck quarterback Caden Fischer's top targets so far this season, outside of Huus, have been seniors Lucas Kivisto (5-foot-8, 160 pounds) and Jack Steckler (6-5, 210).
Prior to 1999, Jamestown's only other victory over Bismarck since 1975 came at Ernie Gates in 1986. A third victory decided by a single point, Jamestown upset Bismarck 7-6 in coach Bill Nold's first season directing the Blue Jays.
Century and Bismarck are the only Class AAA West teams currently locked into the postseason. The Jays would clinch a postseason berth outright with either a win this week against the Demons or next week at Mandan.
"With it possibly being the last game here it's not gonna be an effort thing, but we gotta execute," Nelson said. "Everybody's gotta do their job, we'll get after it and see what happens. We still have a tremendous opportunity ahead of us."
JAMESTOWN BLUE JAYS (4-1) SEASON STATISTICS
STATISTICS JHS OPP
Total yards 1,620 1,385
Passing yards 1,080 566
Passing ypg 216 113.2
Completions/Att. 77/121 45/85
Completion % 63.64% 52.94%
Passing TDs 10 2
Rushing yards 540 819
Rush plays/avg. 151/3.58 187/4.38
Rushing TDs 5 10
3rd down conv. 19 (39.58%) 22 (40%)
4th down conv. 7 (63.64%) 7 (43.75%)
First downs 88 73
Turnovers 6 7
Sacks 5 10
Passing: Ty Monson 75-117-4 1,050, 10 TDs.
Rushing: Austin Kessler 51-267, Monson 65-153, Jakob Schempp 23-93.
Receiving: Preston Kroeber 22-295, Jacob Hilgemann 13-248, Keith Levin 5-155, Carson Lamp 13-144, Adam Kallenbach 6-88, Brode Hillstrom 6-72, Schempp 9-54.
Tackles (solo): Colton Mewes 33 (20), Aden Braun 30 (15), Matt Anderson 26 (13), Monsoon 20 (10), Evan Prescott 18 (7), Joel Bowman 17 (15), Levin 15 (8) Carter Burchill 15 (8), Paris Ndikum 15 (8).
Sacks: Kessler 2, Monson, Paris Ndikum, Anderson
TFL: Anderson 5, Kessler 4, Ndikum 3, Mewes 3, Levin 3.
Fumble recoveries: Payton Hochhalter, Mewes.
Interceptions: Bowman, Burchill, Ndikum, Kessler, Kroeber.
JHS SPECIAL TEAMS
Kickoff returns: Jakob Schempp 7-117, Kroeber 4-77, Hilgemann 1-21.
Punt returns: Preston Kroeber 3-8.
Extra-point kicks: Reece Kleinknecht 7-7, Levi Korum 4-4, Kallenbach 1-2.
Punts (average): Monson 16 (26.56).
OCT. 9 AT MDU RESOURCES COMMUNITY BOWL, BISMARCK
(1) Bismarck Century 45, (RV) Jamestown 0
JAM 0 0 0 0 -- 0
BC 7 17 14 7 -- 45
BC: Peyton Arndt 48 pass from Noah Schaffner (Wade James kick), 3:55.
BC: Schaffner 1 run (James kick), 11:00.
BC: James 31 field goal, 4:21.
BC: Schaffner 2 run (James kick), 1:45.
BC: Cade Garcia 4 run (James kick), 8:18.
BC: Jacob Bosley 22 blocked punt return (James kick), 5:37.
BC: Trevor Ragan 5 run (Paul Osmond kick), 3:28.
STATISTICS JHS BCHS
Total plays 57 41
Total yards 186 329
Passing yards 166 67
Rushing yards 20 262
First downs 13 18
Third down eff. 3-10 5-7
Fourth down eff. 0-2 0-0
Turnovers 2 0
Interceptions 2 0
Penalties (yards) 1 (5) 2 (30)
Passing: J, Ty Monson 21-36-2 165, Payton Hochhalter 1-2-0 1. BC, Noah Schaffner 3-4-0 66, Brady Dahl 0-1-0 0.
Rushing: J, Jakob Schempp 3-9, Monson 9-6, Carson Lamp 1-4, Aden Braun 2-1. BC, Schaffner 9-103, Cade Garcia 16-63, Trevor Ragan 6-56, Peyton Arndt 3-46, Seth Nelson 2-4, Isaiah Pajimula 1-1.
Receiving: J, Lamp 7-46, Jacob Hilgemann 4-35, Preston Kroeber 3-31, Schempp 3-25, Keith Levin 2-17, Brode Hillstrom 2-11, Adean Braun 1-1. BC, Arndt 1-48, Jacob Boehm 1-10, Brock Johnson 1-8.
Interceptions: BC, Andrew Leingang, Jacob Bosley.
Tackles (solo): J, Braun 9 (5), Evan Prescott 5 (3), Monson 4 (2), Hilgemann 3 (2).
Kickoff returns: J, Kroeber 2-20.
Punt returns: J, Kroeber 1-3.
Punts: Monson 4-29.
Records: Bismarck Century 5-0, 5-0 West Region. Jamestown 4-1, 3-1.