BERTHOLD - The Des Lacs-Burlington football team had to beat two opponents Friday to win the Class A Region 3 title: Lewis & Clark-Our Redeemer's Christian School and Mother Nature.
The Lakers came prepared with a game plan after hearing the rainy, windy forecast Monday. The plan was a high dose of running plays as DL-B carried the ball 45 times for 297 yards and five touchdowns in a 32-6 victory over the Bombers.
"It feels really good," DL-B coach James Johnson said of winning the region title. "It feels awesome. It doesn't feel quite as wet and cold when you win. I'm so proud of the kids. They're the ones that did all the work. It's a great group of kids."
Des Lacs-Burlington senior cornerback Austin Schestler (7) tracks down Lewis & Clark-Our Redeemer’s senior tailback Mitchel White on Friday night in Berthold.
DL-B junior running back Eric Knutson carried the ball 12 times for 137 yards and a touchdown and classmate Brett Schaefer rushed for 98 yards and two scores on 19 carries. Knutson had two rushes of 50-plus yards and Schaefer broke a 30-yard run for a touchdown midway through the third quarter.
With winds blowing left to right at 35 mph throughout the game, DL-B quarterback Austin Schestler and L&C-OR signal-caller Austin Lee were nonfactors with their arms. Schestler had the only completion of the game, an 18-yard pass to senior tight end Tanner Holte in the first quarter. The quarterbacks combined to go 1 of 6.
"It's tough when you are going against nine men in the box," L&C-OR coach George Duenas said.
The Lakers (7-0 overall, 6-0 region) got on the board first after a special teams miscue by the Bombers (5-2, 4-2) deep in their own end. A bad snap to punter Nick Stenvold didn't allow him time to get the punt off and he was tackled at L&C-OR's 1-yard line. Schaefer punched it in on the next play with 4 minutes, 8 seconds left in the first quarter.
"We challenged the offensive line and told them, 'This is what you've been busting your butt for all year,' " Johnson said. "The offensive line and the defense did a wonderful job."
Schestler added a 1-yard touchdown run in the final seconds of the first quarter to build a 14-0 lead.
The Lakers took advantage of the wind being at their backs in the first and fourth quarters, scoring 26 points while going away from the heavy gusts. The Bombers failed to score with the wind at their backs in the second and third quarters.
A first-half mist turned into monsoon-like conditions for the final two quarters. Heavy rain quickly turned the field into mud, but DL-B seemed unfazed by the conditions. DL-B senior linebacker Michael Preston blocked a punt in the third quarter, which led to Schaefer's 30-yard touchdown.
"Those conditions were brutal, but that's North Dakota," Duenas said. "If we want to go far in the playoffs we're going to have to play better in conditions like this."
Knutson made his presence felt in the second half. The 195-pound back ripped off a 54-yard run to the Bombers' 8-yard line on his first carry of the third quarter. Senior running back Alex Davy capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown two plays later for a 26-0 lead with 7:48 remaining in regulation.
Knutson added a 29-yard run on the Lakers' next drive and ended his night with a 51-yard touchdown with four minutes left.
Stenvold returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown following Davy's score to put the Bombers on the board. L&C-OR senior running back Mitchel White finished with 81 yards on 22 carries.
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics, the Minot Minotauros and the Minot State University men's club hockey team. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.