Corey's Corner 10/26

Posted 10/26/16 (Wed)

                There’s a perception in sports that the things that happen later on are more meaningful. An MLB win in a pennant race in September means more than a W during the dog days of summer. The last regular season game in football is “more valuable” than week 5. But they all count the same, and in fact the early stuff can go on to shape what happens at that crucial finale.

                And that’s not just over the course of a season, but in game as well. For example, the Bismarck Demons got Lucas Butts going at tailback very early on vs. their regular season finale against Mandan. Butts got over the century mark early on in this one, and the Demons were playing with a lead from the word go. That lets you play a different style of football, and Mandan had to adjust as well. Dale Spilman did find the endzone on the Braves’ third drive, but the Demons offense was unstoppable in this one. Bismarck has controlled this rivalry as of late, and that would be the case again. They would take the win 69-25, locking up the #3 seed in the playoffs. Now they take on the West Fargo Sheyenne Mustangs this weekend.  

                Speaking of playoffs, the A postseason started on BEK with the same team we had showcased two weeks previously: the Thunder of Ellendale-Edgeley-Kulm. EEK coming off two straight wins, now looking for a big one taking on the reigning champions: the Aggies of Park River-Fordville-Lankin. And as it turns out, this game would look a lot like the last one. Exchange the Demons RB for the EEK one, and it starts to sound very similar. Clayton Grueinich would score on the very first possession for the Thunder. That drive began in the redzone because the opening kickoff was fumbled by PRFL. That early miscue set the tone for the game. The Aggies were just a bit off all game, and the Thunder were more than happy to take advantage. Their second drive would find the endzone as well, with a touchdown pass to Luke Wertz. PRFL got the ball back and after a big drop down the middle of the field, they lost the football for the second time. The third time was the charm though for the Aggies, as they took advantage of block punt for some great field position. Jackson Hankey blocked the punt, and the delivered the touchdown pass on a fake QB run to Andrew Moe. Hankey is an incredible athlete that we first saw at the Legion baseball tournament. And he showcased it today. But then a series of fumbles by both teams slowed the action, until EEK found their rhythm again. After utilizing the screen pass all day, the Thunder ran a fake screen and drew the defense in. Then they unleashed a deep ball to Brennan Vance, who cashed in for the 51 yard score. Then on the next drive with the halftime break looming, the Thunder unleashed a Hail Mary. And it worked. Lane Hanson came down with the 40 yard heave, and the Thunder had delivered a crippling gut punch to the champs. Cole Goehring would keep the good going for EEK in the 2nd, and they would get the win. They now travel to take on Larimore to take on the #1 team in Class A.

                Then we were back in the gym. But for the first time, it wasn’t for volleyball. The Vikings of Valley City State and the Minot State Beavers took the floor for a basketball game. In October. And for VCSU it was already game 3. Their earliest start, and now they took on their former conference foe. In the first part of the first half, you could tell it was the opening affair. Neither team was able to really get going. Then as the halftime break neared, we had a basketball game. Tyler Rudolph was excellent for Minot State, he would finish the game with a double-double. Trevor Rothstein threw one down in the first half to energize the arena. Meanwhile, VCSU was trying to find their rhythm under new head coach Ryan Montgomery. Jayden Ferguson was still very good, with well over ten points.  Ellwood Ellenson was good down low. And Rashad Satahoo continued his great start to the season. But the Beavers opened up the second half on a huge run, and held on for the win. They moved to 1-0 in exhibition play, while the Vikings fell to 1-2 on the season.

                And we wrap up this edition with THE rivalry: the Fighting Hawks came to Fargo to take on the Bison. Even though this wasn’t a conference game, this one was hugely important for both teams. Not only was it the most packed game at the Bunker in a while, but each team needed a win. The Bison are fighting to make the Summit League tourney, and they start a pivotal home stand after this one. Meanwhile UND sits on top of the Big Sky North and has a duel with the top team coming up. And there’s no better springboard than a game vs. the team you love to hate. In the first two sets though, it was the wind underneath the wings of the Fighting Hawks. Julia Kaczorowska was injured this time last year, and you could tell that she’s excited to be back out there. She lead the game in the 1st set with five kills, and she had a block as well. It was tight at the midaway point with the Bison leading 11-8. Then UND got on a huge run to make it 16-11. They would finish off the first with a run as well, winning the opening stanza 25-17. Then in the second set, Faith Dooley introduced herself to the Fargo crowd. Five kills and four blocks in the 2nd set, she absolutely disrupted NDSU. Again, it was the midway point that was the launching pad for UND. The Fighting Hawks scored seven of the final eight points, and handled the Bison 25-19 in the 2nd. Jessica Jorgensen started to get going for the Bison, along with Emily Minnick. But Hadley Steffen had been relatively quiet by her standards.

                That changed in the 3rd. This felt like a whole new ballgame. The energy and atmosphere totally changed with the Bison’s backs against the wall, and the Fighting Hawks closing in on the sweep. Every point was an intense volley. Every small victory celebrated as if it were the game winner. It was fun. And NDSU seemed poised to extend the game. Hadley Steffen really got going, and Jorgensen continued to deliver. Monica Claxton and McKenzie Burke provided a great spark of energy for the Bison. NDSU had it in their hands at 24-22. Faith Dooley came through, and kept the Fighting Hawks alive. UND came back at 24, and we had extra volleyball. NDSU got game point again at 26-25, but again the Hawks held on. NDSU got game point at 27-26, and again the Hawks held on. Then at 28-27 UND had a chance to end it, but the Bison wouldn’t quit. All tied at 28, UND turned to their offensive leader. Chelsea Moser put up a kill and a block on back to back opportunities and the game was over. One of the best 3rd sets we’ve ever seen goes the way of the Fighting Hawks, and UND won their first game vs. the Bison with the new logo. It was the early hole forced by UND that powered them to the 3-0 win. The Bison got going, but it was too late.