Big plays spark Firebirds in season opener

Ray Maloney, Sports
Ben Wolf (3) eyes Valley City defender Ben Sorenson (10) as he looks to move upfield against the Hi-Liners in Friday’s opener to the 2009 high school football season. Wolf, who scored on the opening play from scrimmage on a 73-yard run, finished with 138 yards on 13 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns for the Firebirds, who won 41-6.

By Ray Maloney

Journal Sports Writer

DEVILS LAKE - A near picture-perfect night to kick off the high school football season in North Dakota turned into a virtual masterpiece for Devils Lake Friday as the Firebirds downed Valley City 41-6 at Roller Field.

It didn’t take long for Devils Lake to put the defending East Region champions on their heels. Ben Wolf took a pitch on the first play from scrimmage and burst to the left. The speedy senior outran the Hi-Liner defenders 73 yards for the first score of the game just 17 seconds into the contest.

Joao Soares’ conversion kick gave Devils Lake a quick 7-0 advantage.

“It was fun,” DL coach Jay Schneider said. “We were a little concerned about what kind of shape we were at.”

Schneider’s Firebirds were in fine shape.

Other than allowing Valley City to move downfield on its first possession of the game, gaining big chunks of yardage, Devils Lake was in control much of the game.

The Hi-Liners, who downed Devils Lake last season en route to claiming the region title and finishing second in the state, managed to drive to the DL-20 on their first drive of the game. But, that drive ended when Wolf batted down a pass in the end zone on fourth down and the Firebirds took over on downs.

This time, it was Valley City’s turn to step up on defense as the visitors forced Devils Lake into a short punt and drove 33 yards in just four plays before Jordon Thomsen went in from six yards out to put Valley City on the board.

The conversion kick failed and Devils Lake maintained its lead, 7-6. The Firebirds would increase that lead to 14-6 when Wolf scored for the second time in the game on a 1-yard burst just before the end of the first period.

Devils Lake would add two more scoring drives in the first half to take a 27-6 lead at intermission.

QB Beau Eriksson scampered 40 yards for one score, while Erikkson hooked up with Calvin Crawford from 26 yards yards out with 13.7 seconds remaining in the half for the Firebirds.

Neither team was able to find the end zone in the third quarter. But, the Firebirds were able to virtually seal the game in the fourth period when Crawford took a pass from Cole Boehmer for an 11-yard score at 11:08.

Jason Swenseth capped the scoring for the Firebirds when he intercepted a pass and returned it 37 yards for a TD of his own with 2:44 left in the game.

“We came out a little slow,” said Erikkson. “(Valley City) took something from us last year, but this is a great way to start a new season.”

“We got some good play out of our linebackers,” Schneider said. “The defensive line didn’t penetrate too deep and we were able to slow (Valley City’s) fullback play and forced them into some sweeps that our linebackers played extremely well.”

Devils Lake travels to Grafton Friday, while Valley City entertains Carrington that same night

Score by Quarters

Valley City          6         0       0         0   -        6

Devils Lake       14       13       0       14   -       41

Scoring Summary

First Quarter

DL: Ben Wolf 73 run (Joao Soares kick), 11:43.

VC: Jordan Thomsen 7 run (kick failed).

DL: Wolf 1 run (Soares kick), :29.

Second Quarter

DL: Beau Erikkson 40 run (kick failed), 2:48.

DL: Calvin Crawford 26 pass from Erikkson (Soares kick), :13.7.

Third Quarter

No Scoring

Fourth Quarter

DL: Crawford 12 pass from Cole Boehmer (Soares kick), 11:08.

DL: Jason Swenseth 37 interception return (Soares kick), 2:44.

        Team Statistics   

        VC    DL

Rushing        44-181    32-237

Passing        7-10    1-2

Passing Yards    104    2

Total Yards        285    239