In a battle between the past two Class A state champions, Stanley-Powers Lake fought back from a 15-7 halftime deficit to earn a 16-15 road victory over Region 3 rival Velva High School on Friday.
Stanley senior running back Abe Roehrich rushed for 161 yards on 28 carries and scored twice, as the Blue Jays scored the game's final nine points. Roehrich accounted for 161 of the team's 167 total yards.
"We knew it would be a slugfest like coach said," Roehrich said. "(Velva) is a good team and we might see them again down the road."
Stanley senior running back Abe Roehrich (3) stiff-arms Velva senior defensive back Nathan Schmaltz as senior linebacker Kiel Werre (70) closes in during Friday’s game at Velva.
Stanley senior linebacker Seth Meyer set up the game-winning drive after intercepting Velva junior quarterback Drew Effertz at Velva's 45-yard line. Meyer returned it to the 15 with seven minutes, 35 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The Blue Jays were unable to gain a first down, but senior Chase Ladwig connected on a 20-yard field goal with 5:39 to play to give Stanley the lead.
"Everybody in the stadium knew that Abe was getting the ball," Stanley coach Lyne Enget said. "I like to try and mix it up a bit, but sometimes when things are going right you just get conservative and ride your horse."
The Aggies (1-2 overall, 0-1 region) went three and out on their next possession and were forced to punt the ball back to Stanley after being pinned deep due to a holding penalty on the kickoff.
With just over three minutes remaining and no timeouts, Velva's defense needed to do something they hadn't been able to do in the second half - stop Roehrich. Velva caught a break after Stanley senior quarterback Sam Footh fumbled the snap and turned the ball over to the Aggies on Stanley's 38 with 3:08 to play.
The Blue Jays defense stood strong and Effertz's pass to junior running back Michael Thingstad on fourth-and-13 fell incomplete at the goal line.
"That's when champions come out and make the plays that they have to," Enget said. "We put ourselves in a hole, the defense rose to the occasion and we got out of here with a win."
The Blue Jays (3-0, 1-0) ran out the clock after an Aggies penalty on third-and-4 gave Stanley a first down in the final minute.
"In the second half we didn't have as many mistakes," Roehrich said. "We limited our errors and just played hard. We knew we could come back."
Stanley started strong, marching down the field on its opening drive, capped off by Roehrich's 3-yard touchdown with 8:12 remaining in the first quarter.
Turnovers hampered the Blue Jays, as Velva scored all 15 points off turnovers. Stanley muffed a punt late in the first quarter that led to a 24-yard field goal by junior Hunter Schreiner. Effertz's first botched snap resulted in a 1-yard touchdown for senior fullback Taylor Barstad. He finished with 75 yards on 23 carries.
"It wasn't the prettiest game," Velva coach Larry Sandy said. "There were a lot of mistakes by both teams and we both gave each other extra opportunities. But it's early in the season and for us I think the sky is the ceiling. I like what we're going. We're coming together and learning a lot about ourselves."
Velva senior defensive back Nathan Schmaltz intercepted Footh at the Blue Jays' 46-yard line and returned it 30 yards with nine seconds remaining in the first half. Two plays later, Schmaltz caught a deflected ball for a 16-yard touchdown as time expired.
Effertz went 10-for-19 for 96 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Footh completed one of three passes for nine yards and threw an interception.
Stanley hosts Des Lacs-Burlington and Velva plays at Watford City. Both games are at 7 p.m. on Friday.