Playoff bound Devils Lake lost to Fargo Shanley 28-7 on Saturday to end regular season on losing streak.
The objective of Saturday’s game between No. 1 Fargo Shanley and Devils Lake was to survive. Deacons head coach Troy Mattern knew what his team was facing going into Roller Field.
“We preached to our kids all week that coming to Devils Lake is a tough place to play. They were 3-1 at home, they had St. Mary’s on the ropes so we knew coming into the game that it wasn’t going to be something that we were going to run away with,” Mattern said.
“We were ready for a dogfight. We were ready for the physicality of their team.”
Devils Lake squandered two red zone opportunities in the first half and the Deacons did enough in the second 24 minutes to fend off the Firebirds 28-7. The Firebirds, who clinched the fifth seed after Valley City’s 43-16 loss to Central Cass on Saturday, will head into the playoffs on a two-game slide.
“That’s a good football team in Fargo Shanley,” said Firebirds head coach Jake Wateland. “They came out and had a great drive to start the game but I was really excited about how our guys really responded from that the rest of the first half.”
Shanley (9-0) went 72 yards on its opening possession that resulted in a 30 yard touchdown run by Austin Manuel. Matthew Motschenbacher’s extra point gave the Deacons the 7-0 lead. The Deacons, however, had possession three more times in the first half and was held to a punt, a turnover on downs and a kneel down that ended the half.
The Firebirds (4-5) used a 15-play drive to move the ball to Shanley’s 12-yard line. But Marco Tambone’s field goal attempt went wide left to keep the Firebirds scoreless.
With 3:05 remaining until halftime, the Firebirds drove the ball down to the Deacons’ 15-yard line but turned the ball over on downs. Devils Lake trailed 7-0 going into the locker room.
“They controlled the first half but luckily we got off the field and didn’t let them score,” Mattern said.
On the Deacon’s first possession of the second half, Haley Bucholz scored from 6 yards out and with the extra point, Shanley led 14-0.
Ben Heilman’s 10-yard run in the fourth quarter kept the Firebirds from being shutout.
“We shot ourselves in the foot too many times today,” Wateland said.
The Firebirds will open postseason play next week when they travel back to Jamestown, whom they lost to a week ago by 31 points. The Blue Jays concluded the regular season Saturday with a 50 point drubbing of Grafton.
“I told the guys that it’s the second season. Just be refreshed. We’ve proven to ourselves that we can play with the best now it’s just believing that we can win,” Wateland said.
The Deacons were held to its third lowest point total this season Saturday. Mattern, who has led Shanley to a bye into the semifinals of the Class AA playoffs as the 1-seed, also had another survival idea in mind.
“The bottom line is that you try to stay healthy. We have to get one step closer to playoff football so you have to play your guys but on the other hand you want to be careful of what you’re doing. We got out healthy so that was key.”
The Deacons will host next week’s winner between Jamestown and the Firebirds on Nov. 3.
Chris Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @ChrisHarris_DLJ