MHS football defeats West Fargo 6-0

WEST FARGO — Breaking in a new-look roster, West Fargo football coach Jay Gibson knew his team would need to go through game reps to even approach the level of success achieved by recent squads.

One game in, there’s still a ways to go.

Eight days after being shutout in a scrimmage against rival West Fargo Sheyenne, the Packer offense failed to score again, as Minot found just enough offense to squeak out a 6-0 win Friday night in a rematch of last season’s North Dakota Class 3A state championship game.

A Packer team that lost nearly every contributor from last year’s unbeaten state title run got off to a dismal start, fumbling a punt after the defense made an opening-possession stop.

Things didn’t go much smoother when the offense got its hands on the ball, as the Packers managed just 10 first half yards. They finished the first 24 minutes with more turnovers (three) than first downs (two).

The defense did its part to keep the Packers in the game. Carter Birrenkoff and David Daniels each recorded first-half interceptions of Magician quarterback Jaxon Gunville, who accounted for the game’s only points on a one-yard touchdown run.

The defense was strong again in the second half, allowing just one first down.

An offense that didn’t get anywhere near Magician territory in the first half looked to be getting in sync, putting together a 62-yard drive into the red zone to open the second.

Aside from his defensive play, Birrenkoff also made his presence felt as a wide receiver, catching three passes for 44 yards on the drive. This included a spectacular 15-yard catch in which he jumped over a Minot defender and grabbed the ball off his helmet.

“Originally I was going to try to just break up the interception and I reached over and I came to the ground a realized I had the ball,” Birrenkott said. “I just wanted to make sure he didn’t catch it and it ended up in my hands.”

But the drive would stall at the 18, when running back Michael Johnson was stuffed for a loss on fourth-and-2.

West Fargo had one other impressive drive that reached the Minot 29, but another negative play killed it, as quarterback Cooper Sahli bobbled the snap, then sloppily pitched the ball to running back Joel McIntosh, who was stuffed for a 13 yard loss.

On the ensuing play, Sahli was intercepted. The first-year quarterback finished 10-of-26 for 82 yards and two interceptions.

He didn’t get a lot of help from the run game, which managed just nine yards on 22 carries. Packer runners were dropped behind the line of scrimmage 12 times.

An inexperienced offense was done no favors by a sloppy, wet field, which resulted in several dropped passes and bobbled snaps.

“The ball gets wet, it gets greasy and your jerseys are wet and it’s hard to protect the football,” Gibson said. “It just feeds on itself. The team that makes the fewest mistakes usually wins. And they made fewer mistakes.”

Injuries also an impact on the game, as starting center Wyatt Bradley and wideout Dustin Mertz both exited the game early.

The loss ended a 25-game regular season win streak for West Fargo that dates back to Sept. 4, 2016. It also marked the first time the Packers had been shut out since their 2013 season opener, which was also against Minot.

Tough disappointed with the loss, Gibson wasn’t in the mood to hit the panic button at game’s end.

“They’re a good team,” he said. “And we’re a good team. We’ve just got a ways to go.”