Cardinals capture title, snap 23-game win streak for H-CV
FARGO — Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich junior linebacker Sidney Ullyott admits that for him to be 160 pounds, he’d need to be soaking wet.
But he also knows that has nothing to do with his ability to play football.
“It doesn’t matter how much you weigh,” Ullyott said. “You just gotta work every play. It’s all about the heart.”
Trailing by two, with less than two minutes remaining in the Friday, Nov. 9, North Dakota Class 1A championship, Hillsboro-Central Valley had third-and-4 at the LA-E-M 12-yard line.
Every person in the Fargodome knew the ball was going to Oscar Benson, who entered Friday with 1,526 yards rushing this season. What they didn’t know was the 160-pound, give or take, linebacker was going to be there to meet him in the backfield for a 1-yard loss on third-and-4 and a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-5.
H-CV would never get the ball again, as the Cardinals won the state title, 20-18, snapping H-CV’s 23-game win streak and avenging last season’s loss to the Burros in the state championship game.
“He’s not oversized, but he’s a football player,” LA-E-M coach Josh Krivarchka said of Ullyott. “All we ask is for them to play football and make plays. These kids have been in the system long enough. They understand where people are tying to go. He was one heck of a football player for us today.”
Ullyott finished with 9.5 tackles, but none were bigger than the final two on Benson.
“I never really want to go through that again,” Ullyott said of last season’s loss in the state championship. “There was a lot of disappointment because we knew we had a good squad last year. We wanted to get back here and do it for them. It felt good.”
H-CV (11-1) opened the scoring on a 66-yard drive compiled of 13 running plays. Micah Gallagher punched it in on third and goal from the one to put the Burros up 6-0.
LA-E-M (12-0) wasted little time, scoring on its third play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive. Simon Romfo found a streaking Sean Gette for a 47-yard touchdown pass. Romfo added the two-point conversion with a run and the Cardinals were up 8-6 with 26 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
“We knew we had to come in here and fight, and that’s what we came in and did,” Romfo said. “We just played until the end, played hard.”
The two teams traded touchdowns to open the second quarter, as the Burros found the end zone on a 3-yard run from Ezra Longthorne to go up 12-8. The Cardinals used a drive that took more than six minutes to find the end zone. They converted a fourth-and-4 from the H-CV 20 on a 15-yard pass from Romfo to Jackson Delvo to set up first-and-goal from the 5. After a 4-yard run, Romfo was stuffed on second down and third down, but found his twin brother, Grant, for a 1-yard touchdown pass on fourth down.
“Their comeback routes are no joke,” H-CV coach Scott Olsen said. “For high school kids to cover 15 yards with a comeback throw, with a ball when the receiver isn’t cutting yet, and to be on a dime, that’s special. That’s a lot of hard work, a lot of off time that they do that on their own. They’re tough to defend, and you’re never going to defend a perfect route like that.”
On the ensuing drive, H-CV went for it on fourth-and-1 from its own 45, but a pitch went rolling into the backfield, and the Cardinals took over at the H-CV 34. Simon Romfo dove in from 2 yards out to put the Cardinals up 20-12 with 21 seconds left in the first half.
“We wanted to play them,” said Simon Romfo, who finished with 211 yards and two touchdowns passing, a rushing touchdown and 16 tackles and an interception on defense. “This is how we wanted it to go. Just like this.”
Simon Romfo fumbled on the first play from scrimmage of the second half and H-CV’s Isaac Luithle pounced on it on the LA-E-M 36. Burros used eight plays and converted two third downs to find the end zone. Benson got the 1-yard touchdown run but was stuffed on the two-point attempt and the Cardinals held on to a 20-18 lead.
H-CV is moving up to Class 2A next season. The Burros had a chance to leave Class 1A with 24 straight wins and back-to-back state titles, but Ullyott was there to stop them on their final offensive drive.
The Cardinals used two run plays to force H-CV to use its final timeouts. On third-and-4, Simon Romfo’s hard count got the Burros to jump for an encroachment penalty, giving the Cardinals a first down and a Class 1A title.
“We’re resilient and we always find a way to win,” Krivarchka said. “Chips are down, last week we were down 13-0, our kids just kept fighting and fighting and fighting. They just want to win. You can’t teach that.”