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No. 4 Velva football defends home turf, defeats No. 3 Bishop Ryan

Jimmy Lafakis/MDN Velva and Bishop Ryan football players attempt to block each other on Friday night in Velva. The Aggies earned a 32-24 win over the Lions in a Region 3 rivalry contest.

VELVA — As the sky slowly morphed into an extravagant shade of bright gold, the No. 4 Velva Aggies football team found paydirt for the first time.

The golden sky and Velva junior running back Gage Florence’s first rushing touchdown of the game against No. 3 Bishop Ryan foreshadowed the evening’s events. Velva stayed undefeated at 4-0, defeating Ryan 32-24 at home in a Class A Region 3 showdown.

“So many emotions,” Florence said. “I don’t even know how to put it into words. This is one of our biggest games of the year. It’s a great rivalry, Bishop Ryan is a great team. When I get in the end zone, I don’t know. I’m just so jacked every play.”

Ryan sophomore Bram Johannsen booted an 18-yard field goal to start the scoring. After Florence’s first touchdown, the rivals reached a stalemate in the second quarter.

Neither team scored in the frame, and the Aggies led 6-3 at the half.

“I thought our defense did a super job over there,” Velva head coach Larry Sandy said.

In the third quarter, the teams went blow for blow. Florence found the end zone again for a four-yard score, but Ryan junior running back Logan Merck countered with his own 18-yard touchdown.

Velva junior running back Tyson Tomlinson gashed the Ryan defense for a 78-yard touchdown run. The run created some distance heading into the fourth quarter.

“We stayed pretty simple in the second half,” Sandy said. “We let our front line start getting hands-on and get a little bit of moving. Our backs started hitting some creases. We know they’ve got the breakaway speed. (Florence and Tomlinson) are both track sprinters and have track-sprint speed.”

Florence scored his first of two touchdowns (a 59-yard run) with 7:26 remaining in the fourth quarter, but Ryan answered with a drive and a one-yard sneak from junior quarterback Nick Sanders.

On the sideline, Florence urged his team to know that if they scored one more touchdown, they would win.

He proved to be correct. As Velva’s primary threat, Florence scampered across the field for a 53-yard touchdown run.

“We’ve been waiting for this game since we lost last year by one point in overtime,” Florence said.

Velva junior quarterback Jersey Selzler punched in the two-point conversion, which was the Aggies’ only successful conversion of the game.

The action turned up another notch, as Ryan senior offensive/defensive lineman Corbin Okeson lumbered down the field for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff.

However, penalties and turnovers had plagued the Lions all night. Their final penalty, an illegal touch on the onside kick, allowed Velva to kneel out the clock and take the 32-24 victory.

“When you turn the ball over and have as many penalties as we did, it’s nearly impossible to win,” Ryan head coach Roger Coleman said. “We clawed and fought until the end. The penalties, we’ve been trying to clean up all year. We’ve got to do something different as a coaching staff. We’re not getting the job done.”

After the final whistle, the Velva players immediately rushed to their fans and hoisted the coveted Penny Trophy.

The Aggies will travel to Des Lacs-Burlington on Sept. 27, while the Lions will host Nedrose. Both games are set for 7 p.m. starts.

“We know what (DLB) brings to the table,” Sandy said. “If we don’t bring it, they’re a team that can knock you off also. It’s going to be good for us to have back-to-back games like this. We’ve got to enjoy the win, but we’ve got to turn around and start focusing on next Friday.”

Jimmy Lafakis covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JJLII30.

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