Backup quarterback lifts Thompson to 9-man state football title
FARGO — When standout quarterback Cadyn Schwabe went down with a game-ending collarbone injury early in the third quarter, Clay Odenbach got an unexpected call.
The junior responded by leading Thompson to three second-half touchdown drives. That helped the Tommies beat New Salem-Glen Ullin 42-28 on Friday in the championship game of the North Dakota 9-man high school football playoffs at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
While Odenbach starts on defense, “I didn’t think I’d be playing on offense,” the junior said. “But we get reps in practice all week, so it wasn’t anything new. I just went in and did what I was supposed to do. I was a little nervous on the first drive, but I was fine after that.”
Odenbach hit Marcus Hughes for a 33-yard touchdown pass on the Tommies’ first drive of the third quarter. He lost a fumble on the next drive, but the Tommies scored on their next two possessions. The left-hander finished 5-of-10 passing for 95 yards.
“We called the game the same as if Cadyn was in there,” Tommies head coach Brady Schwab said. “And Clay was lights out. Given the circumstances, on this stage, he gave us probably more than we would have hoped for.”
But if it was Odenbach running the offense, it was Hughes making big plays.
After his touchdown catch, the senior scored on a 4-yard run for a 30-22 lead. On a razzle-dazzle double handoff play, he took a pitch from Nick Reck and hit an open Hayden Overby for a 29-yard touchdown and a 36-22 lead.
Then, on the Tommies’ final drive, Hughes took over at quarterback. He carried on the last six plays, the final a 1-yard touchdown run with 1:10 left for the 42-28 lead. Hughes had 139 yards from scrimmage – 76 on seven catches, 34 rushing and 29 passing.
“The coaches might have wanted the ball in my hands a little more,” Hughes said. “But I wasn’t trying to do things I don’t regularly do. We needed to put points on the board every time we got the ball. Our defense wasn’t doing that well at the start of the second half.”
Hughes also had an interception that gave Thompson possession on the drive that ended with Overby’s touchdown.
“That interception was big,” Schwab said. “We score, we take the ball away, we score. The way that half was going, that’s a three-score swing. But that’s pretty much normal for Marcus. Other than taking snaps from center, he’s been making those kinds of plays for us all year.”
Thompson limited New Salem-Glen Ullin to 122 yards rushing. But Holsteins quarterback Evan Henke was 16-of-27 passing for 255 yards and three touchdowns.
“We came out throwing more in the second half,” Holsteins head coach Steve Kleinjan said. “We had to do that. Their defense was giving us problems up front. We had a tough time running between the tackles.
“We couldn’t get a stop. That was the difference. We’d get a score. We’d get some momentum. But we couldn’t stop them.”
Reck had a game-high 93 yards rushing. Schwabe, in a little more than a half, rushed for 88 yards and was 9-of-13 passing for 66 yards.
Thompson finished 12-0, winning its second state title in the past three seasons. The Holsteins closed at 11-1.