FARGO - The weather was flawless Saturday afternoon, but a brief storm struck Sid Cichy Stadium in the first quarter - Hurricane Fort.
Shanley junior Tre Fort scored three touchdowns in less than three minutes. That early scoring spree sparked the Deacons to a 34-2 victory against Watford City in the first round of the North Dakota Class AA football playoffs.
"He is an elusive guy," Shanley coach Rod Oksendahl said. "You get him out 1-on-1 on the outside and he's a tough guy to handle out there. He is a threat any time he gets it."
Watford City’s Dalton Wright runs the ball against Shanley on Saturday in Fargo. Photo courtesy of Carrie Snyder/The Forum.
Winners of nine consecutive games, the Deacons (9-1) advanced to the state semifinals. They will host Bismarck St. Mary's next weekend. The Saints (9-1) are the only team to beat Shanley this season.
Fort scored four touchdowns against Watford City. The 5-foot-8, 156-pound wide receiver caught five passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 16 yards and two touchdowns on four attempts.
"We played as a team," Fort said. "We played as a family especially."
Fort scored his first touchdown midway through the first quarter. He ran a short hitch pattern, catching the pass from quarterback Chase Montplaisir before eluding a Watford City defender in the open field. Fort then raced into the end zone for a 23-yard score that gave the Deacons a 7-0 lead with 6 minutes, 36 seconds to play in the opening quarter.
The Deacons quickly pushed their lead to double digits after Watford City fumbled on the first play of the ensuing possession, giving Shanley the ball at the Wolves' 8-yard line. Fort scored on the next play, an 8-yard touchdown run. That gave the Deacons a 13-0 lead with 6:24 to play in the first quarter.
A shade more than 2 minutes later, Fort capped his early scoring binge, catching a 42-yard touchdown pass from Montplaisir for a 20-0 lead with 4:16 remaining in the first. That was another one-play scoring drive for the Deacons.
"They were tough against the run the whole day," Oksendahl said of Watford City. "If we were going to try to line up and run against them, that would have been like knocking our heads against the wall."
Fort said he had never scored that many touchdowns in such a short period of time.
"That was amazing," Fort said. "I have to give props to our line. I can't believe that happened."
Montplaisir completed 12 of 15 passes for 180 yards, including two touchdowns. Watford City (6-4) held the Deacons to 52 yards rushing on 20 attempts.
"Their passing game really was the big difference in the game," Watford City coach Fred Fridley said. "They found the places where they could take advantage on us and they did a good job of that."
The Wolves rushed for 144 yards on 52 attempts, but were unable to find the end zone. Their best chance to score a touchdown came in the second quarter. However, senior running back Brandon Allex was stopped inches short of the end zone on fourth down.
Four plays later, the Wolves blocked a Shanley punt out of the end zone for their only points. That cut the Deacons lead to 20-2 with 6:25 to play in the second quarter.
"I thought our defense played well the whole ballgame," Oksendahl said.
Fort capped his big day, scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run with 11:10 to play in the fourth quarter. That gave Shanley a 34-2 lead.
"We knew that coming in that he's a player, especially with his quickness," Fridley said of Fort. "Good players sometimes make big plays but I'm proud of our kids."