BSM advances to State AAAA Championship

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For one more week, the BSM football team will prepare for battle—and this time, it’s the biggest game of their lives, on the biggest stage. With a gritty, all-around team effort, the Red Knights ousted the previously undefeated Marshall Tigers in the State AAAA Semifinal, 44-34, on November 17, 2016, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

A game that featured many ups and downs did not start in the Red Knights’ favor. After being stuffed on their opening drive, BSM punted the ball away, which was then returned 63 yards for a touchdown by Tigers’ senior wide receiver Ryan VanMoer. After the successful extra point, Marshall led 7-0.

Joey Simpson and John Landry

On the ensuing BSM drive, senior quarterback Will Whitmore dropped back and looped a pass over the middle of field, which was undercut and intercepted by Tigers’ defensive back, Zach Thompson. Marshall proceeded to march down the field and score on a 9-yard touchdown pass. Even after the missed extra point, the early tally read 13-0 in favor of the undefeated Tigers. “I made the right read, but the throw could’ve been better. After I threw the interception, I was discouraged, but I remained confident,” Whitmore said.

Big plays in big games can be huge momentum swings for any team. After going down 13-0 early, the Red Knights needed a big play, and they got it from a familiar source. Senior running back Ricky Floyd—who has been ripping off electric runs all year—took the first play of the next drive 81 yards for a touchdown—and nobody on the field had any chance to catch him. After Alex Houlihan’s extra point made the score 13-7, BSM was right back in the game.

With 3:02 remaining in the opening quarter, a hot Red Knights’ defense made its first statement of the night. Tigers’ quarterback Trey Lance rolled out to his right, as pressure was applied from the backside, and fired a pass toward the sidelines. Junior safety Liam Ford—who played this game through a gruesome arm injury—made a one-handed interception, giving the ball back to the BSM offense.

With the second quarter beginning, the Red Knights picked up where they left off. Houlihan rolled out to his left as if to pass, but changed direction, and ran into the end zone for a 13-yard score. He added the extra point, to make the score 14-13—giving BSM its first lead of the night.

As the half winded down, Floyd extended the BSM lead with a 51-yard touchdown run; however, on the very next drive, Marshall struck back. What looked to be a sure incomplete pass went through the hands of one Tiger receiver and into another. Nick Ektanitphong capitalized on the miscue and took the ball 63 yards for a touchdown. Marshall would successfully attempt the two-point conversion, and so the score stood at a 21-21 tie. But don’t forget, this game was a wild one.

On the very next play, Marshall kicked off toward the opposite end zone, and waiting there was a speedster: senior Peyton James. “The front two lines opened a great hole, and I only had a couple guys left to beat, so I ran to the outside, and took it to the end zone,” James said. The Red Knights’ special teams unit—which had quite a strong showing on the day—opened up a gaping hole, and James and his speed did the rest, returning the kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. With 1:53 remaining in the half, BSM lead 28-21.

But the lead would not stand for long. On the next drive, the Tigers scored a touchdown after quickly marching down the field. After a high-energy and high-scoring first half, the score was tied at 28 points apiece.

The Red Knights set the tone early in the second half, and owned the third quarter of this game. After disaster was averted when senior Carston Swenson jumped on a fumble on the opening kickoff to secure possession for the Red Knights, the opening drive of the second half lasted five minutes, and would be capped by Floyd’s third of three touchdowns on the day. “They kept coming back so I knew we couldn’t get complacent. The managers supplying me with water was honestly huge; it was really hot in the stadium, and my legs felt heavy at times,” Floyd said. Floyd delivered a 34-yard scamper to put BSM on top 35-28—and the Red Knights would not trail again on this night.

Three drives later, the BSM defense again saw itself in a possible game-changing situation—but it wasn’t without help from the aforementioned special teams unit. Junior Henry Wolfe downed a Houlihan punt at the 1-yard line, and that’s where Marshall would begin a very short-lived drive. On the first play of the drive, juniors Patrick Kalb and Braeden Fitzgerald burst through the Tiger offensive line and tackled the ball-carrier in the end zone for a safety. This made the score 37-28 BSM, and more importantly put the Red Knights up by two scores, while also giving the Red Knights the ball back.

On the next Red Knight drive, Whitmore threw a bullet down field, which was caught spectacularly by a leaping Matthew Brooks. The senior wide receiver was downed at the 1-yard line. After being stuffed on three straight plays, the Red Knights would go for it on 4th down and goal, and it would pay off big time. Whitmore faked the handoff to Floyd, and dove in himself for the 1-yard score. After the Houlihan extra point, the score read 44-28 in favor of the men wearing red.

With six minutes remaining in the game, Marshall scored on a touchdown pass, but failed on the two-point conversion, making the score 44-34. However, the BSM defense would stand tall the rest of the game—even adding another turnover on a Fitzgerald interception, which sealed this one for the Red Knights.

After quite an eventful night, the boys in red walked away with a 44-34 victory. They will be the first football team in BSM history to play in the State AAAA Championship Game, now dubbed the ‘Prep Bowl,’ where they’ll face off against the Winona Winhawks at 4:00pm on Friday, November 25, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. “We have put in countless hours, and it would be unreal to see the hard work pay off. The guys on this team have made it an experience like none other. We know how much winning this game means for the fans, the school, and the teams that came before us. Hoisting that trophy at the Bank would truly be a special feeling,” Whitmore said.