Despite everything going on around the team and on the team, No. 1 Langdon/Edmore/Munich (11-0) dominated its semifinals matchup against Region 3 No. 2 Bishop Ryan (9-3), 55-27, punching its ticket to it fourth straight Class A state championship game.

The road to Fargo these past three seasons for the Cardinals has been pretty straight forward. Get better every game, execute, and win. The mentality to push by the Cardinals has rewarded them with back-to-back state titles and three appearances in the championship game. 

This season, with the same mentality in place, the road wasn't as straight forward. The Cardinals received an unexpected, and unwanted, BYE into state semifinals as their opponent, Oakes, was forced to forfeit due to an active COVID-19 case in the program. In the days leading up to their semifinals game, the Cardinals were made aware that they were going to be without some players due to close contact cases.

Things also began to change around them as COVID-19 cases took a sharp climb on Nov. 2, limiting fan attendance at games. It hasn't been the season the Cardinals are used to, but the team's performance remained unaltered.  

Despite everything going on around the team and on the team, No. 1 Langdon/Edmore/Munich (11-0) dominated its semifinals matchup against Region 3 No. 2 Bishop Ryan (9-3), 55-27, punching its ticket to it fourth straight Class A state championship game. 

"I'm proud of our kids," Cardinals head coach Josh Krivarchka said. "We had some kids in some different spots because we had some kids out with close contacts. We fought through it and our kids made plays when they had to. It's just a great overall team effort by our guys." 

The Cardinals offense was carried by all-state senior quarterback Simon Romfo, who would rush for two touchdowns and throw for two. When Simon wasn't throwing or rushing into the endzone, he was tallying up L/E/M's rushing game as he pulled the Cardinals into the Lions side of the field multiple times on the day. 

"We've always known that he's our ace in the hole," Krivarchka said. "The bigger the games, the more we'll run him. We felt like we were going to have to utilize him more and he showed out there today how explosive and how good of a football player he is." 

While Krivarchka said the team did lean a little off of Simon's passing game due to the subs in place, his rushing game came up huge for L/E/M. He would run 67 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter and would pull the Cardinals into the Lion 5 yard line before senior running back Grant Romfo would finish off the drive with six points.  

Grant was a go-to for the Cardinals when they neared Bishop Ryan's goal line as he would convert four times for L/E/M, with three of his scores coming from inside the Lions' 5-yard line. The Cardinals also saw its other offensive weapons in sophomores wide receiver Markus Kingzett and running back Carter Tetrault convert throughout the game. At the same time, L/E/M's subs for the close contact cases stepped up.  

"They did well both offensively and defensively," Krivarchka said. "We had a new guy up front and on defense, we had some of our secondary unit back there, but I'm proud of our kids. They don't question anything and don't make any excuses. They just go up and play."  

The Cardinals cruised through the game, but there were some hiccups in the finish. Bishop Ryan would pull themselves out of a fourth and 16 situation before scoring the first touchdown of the game to take the lead. Towards the end of the second half, L/E/M would fumble and turnover on an attempted hook and ladder play, eventually leading to a contested Lions touchdown.  

The Cardinals were only up by seven at halftime, but Simon's performance in the second half would see L/E/M outscore Bishop Ryan 27-6 in the second half. It was discipline, according to Krivarchka, that surged the Cardinals in the second half. It is one of three keys that is now sending L/E/M to the FargoDome for the fourth straight season and keeps its hopes alive for a three-peat. 

"Our kids play really hard, are disciplined, and are really good athletes," Krivarchka said. "When you have those three combinations together, you can have some special years and we don't take anything for granted. It should be a special game next Friday." 

In having that experience going through the entirety of the playoff cycle, L/E/M is familiar with almost all of its opponents. The Cardinals played Bishop Ryan in the title game last season, defeating them by a sizable margin similar to Saturday's finish. In Fargo, they face Lisbon, who they shut out last season, 50-0 in state semifinals. The Broncos knocked off Velva 44-20 on Saturday to reach the title game. 

"We played them last year in state semifinals and they don't like to throw the football," Krivarchka said. "It becomes a matter of wills, getting guys in the box and playing smash-mouth football. Our kids will rise up to it. We've been there and we're excited to go back next Friday." 

While Friday is only six days away, weeks have begun to feel endless for high school teams around North Dakota due to the rising spread of COVID-19. Cavalier County's cases continue to rise sharply more and more every day as it was one of the last county's in the state to avoid a high-risk spread of the. The Cardinals will be getting back their players who had to sit out due to close contact and are moving forward with caution.  

COVID-19 is unpredictable, but L/E/M's experience has benefitted them on the field to stay focused on a shared goal. Even when their quarterfinals game was canceled, the Cardinals pressed forward. They've been through the gauntlet three times before and are looking to go through it for the fourth time with a state championship in less than a week. 

"You learn things each year and our kids know what's at stake," Krivarchka said. "Three years ago we lost that football game, so they don't want to have that feeling. They know it's another football game, but it's for the state championship. We'll be ready next Friday."  

Jack Williams covers Lake Region sports and general news for The Devils Lake Journal. Contact him via email at JGWilliams1@gannett.com, on Twitter @jackgwilliams, or phone at 701-662-2127