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No. 2 Velva football defeats Ryan in thrilling 20-16 contest

Jimmy Lafakis/MDN Velva senior quarterback Jersey Selzler (white) prepares to throw a pass during the first quarter of Friday evening's football game against Bishop Ryan at Nedrose High School.

With the omnipresent clanks of cowbells ringing in the distance, the Velva and Bishop Ryan football teams added another chapter to their historic rivalry on Friday evening. This time around, a unique atmosphere shrouded the Penny Bowl’s proceedings.

Due to the Herb Parker Stadium bubble remaining up throughout the high school football season, Nedrose High School has become Ryan’s de facto home field. When the dust settled on this distinctive contest, the No. 2 Aggies (4-0, 3-0 Region 3) prevailed over the Lions (3-2, 2-1 Region 3) with a 20-16 victory.

“I give them an awful lot of credit,” Velva head coach Larry Sandy said about the Lions. “They’re a scrappy ball club. They’ve got some nice, big playmakers over there. There’s a lot of plays that could have went either way. This game was a coin flip. It’s just the way it works. We’ll be happy we got the win, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.

The Lions got the scoring started on homecoming after junior kicker Bram Johannsen ripped a 32-yard field goal in the first quarter. The Aggies bounced back with a quick flurry of scores to open the second frame.

After Velva senior quarterback Jersey Selzler found senior running back Gage Florence for a textbook 49-yard touchdown pass, Selzler struck once again on Velva’s next possession.

The Aggies marched down the field and forced their way into Ryan’s red zone. With goal to go, Selzler reached across the plane and stuck the ball into the end zone.

“We go up another score like that, that was really big for us, “ he said. “The rest of the game, we kind of slowed down. We’ve got to work in the next couple of weeks, keep going and not slow down. We’ll make sure that we’re more of a second-half team than only a first-half team.”

At that point, Velva held a 14-3 lead. As the half came to a close, the Lions responded.

Ryan senior quarterback Nick Sanders found senior running back Logan Merck for a nine-yard touchdown reception. The play showcased a flair for the dramatic — Merck fully extended his right arm before snagging the ball for the score.

Nursing a 14-10 halftime lead, the Aggies capitalized on a major opportunity in the third quarter. Facing fourth down, Selzler rifled a 26-yard touchdown strike to senior tight end Adam Schepp.

“It was big for us,” Selzler said. “It was just big, momentum-wise, to score that touchdown.”

Ryan trailed 20-10 in the fourth quarter, but Sanders led the Lions and punched in a touchdown run from a yard out. A swarm of white jerseys blocked the ensuing kick.

Leading 20-16, the tandem of Selzler and Florence did their damage on the ground. Velva was forced to punt, but the pigskin bounced in the Aggies’ favor and rolled to the 10-yard line.

A long pass downfield resulted in a pass interference penalty on the Lions. Undeterred, Ryan zipped down the field.

With two seconds remaining, the game’s final pass went incomplete. The Aggies rushed to celebrate in the middle of the field.

“We make sure we enjoy the opportunity we get to play each and every Friday,” Sandy said. “Not everybody is right now.”

Both teams will play at 7 p.m. next Friday. Velva will host Des Lacs/Burlington for homecoming, while Bishop Ryan will face Nedrose.

Jimmy Lafakis covered Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. You can still follow him on Twitter @JJLII30.

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