Nate Walz back, Jays top Spartans in regular-season finale
The Jamestown High School football team faced Fargo North on Thursday.
JAMESTOWN — When Nate Walz showed up to the first day of football practice in August, he wasn't expecting to see much varsity action.
After all, he's only a sophomore and he was injured.
"I was injured when we started practices," Walz said. "But in the first week of the season got in a couple of times on defense. Coach trusted me to get out there and make some plays in the first week and I did pretty good so he let me keep playing."
Good call on head coach Bill Nelson's part.
With less than two minutes remaining in the opening half Thursday evening, Walz picked off Fargo North's Ethan Welk and ran it back 34 yards to put on the Jays on the Spartans' one-yard line.
One play later, Blue Jay quarterback Payton Hochhalter zipped up the middle and powered his way into the endzone to get the defending Class A State champs on the board.
The Blue Jays wound up outscoring the Spartans 49-21 to end the 2022 regular season at 7-2. The first round of the 2022 postseason will kick off on Oct. 28 but who the Jays will face in the Class A quarterfinals has not yet been determined.
"The kids were ready to play, plain and simple," Nelson said. "I told the kids that getting tired was not an option. We knew it wasn't going to be easy but we decided to play hard for four quarters and this is what happened."
Walz was one Nelson mentioned when listing off the players who "worked his tail off."
"I mean yeah, he had the pick and he had the catches but he ended up hustling his tail off and picking up a block that ended up springing Aden (Braun) for eight to 10 more yards," Nelson said of Walz. "That's having a short-term memory, that's having the ability to keep working and keep making plays."
After picking up the Jays' lone score in week No. 7, Walz was forced out of the game after suffering a nasty hit that placed him in concussion protocol. The two-way starter missed playing in the Jays' 46-12 win over West Fargo Horace but knew it was only to his benefit to wait until week No. 9 to come back.
"It was pretty exciting watching them get that win in Horace and I wanted to get in on that but I am feeling a lot better now," Walz said. "I am glad that I got past the concussion protocol and that the coaches put trust in me to go out there and play my game."
Walz's pick was really the play that gave the Blue Jays the momentum shift they needed after a scoreless first quarter.
North's first points of the game came off a six-yard pass by Ethan Welk to Jeremiah Sem. Sem is currently leading the Eastern Dakota Conference (EDC) in touchdown receptions with seven.
"The kids are used to taking other team's punches," Nelson said.
The Jays and Spartans entered the halftime break knotted up at seven. Hochhalter was only 4-for-10 for 51 yards passing through the air but he quickly added to his passing stats as the second half kicked off.
Hochhalter delivered a 48-yard pass to Jackson Walters to advance the Jays all the way up to the Spartans' 3-yard line. Hochhalter zipped a bullet out to Walters completing the 6-play, 80-yard drive and giving the Jays their first lead of the night.
After the Spartans tied things up with another touchdown strike to Sem, Hochhalter found Walz on a 45-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-14 Blue Jays.
North kept punching, tying it again late in the third but it was shortlived as Hochhalter and Walters connected again on a 35-yard touchdown strike to go up 28-21.
Preston Gall, Aden Braun and Tyson Jorissen were those credited with scores in the final quarter. Hochhalter was 14-for-23 for 224 yards passing, four touchdowns passing and one rushing score. Walz had four receptions for 43 yards. Walters ended the night with seven catches and 118 yards.
"It's really exciting being back at home," Walz said. "It's my favorite stadium. Now (going into playoffs), we just need to keep working."
Jamestown 49, Fargo North 21
FN 0 7 14 0 — 21
JHS 0 7 21 14— 49
FN: 6-yard pass by Ethan Welk to Jeremiah Sem (Max Watson kick good), 6:57
JHS: 1-yard run by Hochhalter (Sara Sletto kick good), 1:19
JHS: 3-yard pass by Hochhalter to Walters (kick good), 10:23
FN: 41-yard pass by Welk to Sem (kick good), 7:29.
JHS: 45-yard pass by Hochhalter to Walz (kick good), 5:40
FN: 4-yard run by Miller (kick good), 2:47
JHS: 35-yard pass by Hochhalter to Walters (kick good), 0:42
JHS: 23-yard pass by Hochhalter to Preston Gall (kick good), 11:04
JHS: 3-yard run by Aden Braun (kick good), 8:44
JHS: 5-yard run by Tyson Jorissen (kick good), 6:51