Firebirds hold off Spoilers 22-20
Sandwiched between two key defensive plays a pretty darn good high school football game was played Friday at Roller Field.
And it was the host Firebirds who were the benefactors of both key plays and that proved to be the difference as Devils Lake defeated Grafton 22-20 to remain unbeaten on the season.
The Firebirds are 2-0 and will open West Region play Friday at Beulah.Grafton (1-1) will open East Region play Friday at Lisbon.
The Spoilers scored late in the third quarter to pull to within 22-14 and then used a tough defense of its own to set the stage for a dramatic finish.
Grafton quarterback Joey Demers connected with Michael McCrudden for 44 yards down the middle of the field between three Devils Lake defenders that put the ball at the Firebird 30 with 36.8 seconds left in the contest.
On the next play Demers found Adam Jiskra in the end zone and the six-foot, one-inch Jiskra was able to leap high above the Devils Lake defender for the score with 33.6 seconds left in the game.
That was when the Firebird defense came up with Huge Play No. 2.
Grafton’s attempt at a two-point conversion to tie the game and force overtime was blown up from the get-go and the Spoilers went nowhere with the opportunity.
Special teams also played a major role in the final outcome.
The ensuing onside kick resulted in something akin to a rugby scrum and officials awarded the ball to the Firebirds.
Grafton assistant coach Jon Koemstedt rushed the field to protest the call and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. It was the second of two calls for that infraction on the night and resulted in the ejection of Grafton head coach Tom Maus
Devils Lake held the ball for nearly 10 minutes in the final period but was unable to add to its lead.
The Firebirds moved the ball well enough, but they were also thwarted by some untimely penalties that prevented them from putting the finishing touches on the game
Kole Jensen got loose for a 17-yard gain to midfield and moments later after a Devils Lake fumble, which was recovered by Firebird quarterback Beau Eriksson, Jenson took a pass along the right sidline from Eriksson for another first down to the Grafton 38. Sam Desai added a 19-yard rumble to the Spoiler 19 and another first down.
That’s when Devils Lake’s hopes of putting the finishing touches on the Spoilers went south.
Jenson was tackled for a loss and the Firebirds were penalized for delay on successive plays setting up a third-and-16 from the 25.
Jenson got most of that lost yardage back on a run to the 12, but a holding penalty negated that effort. Eriksson was sacked on the next play forcing Devils Lake to punt the ball away to Grafton with 2:08 left in the game.
That proved to be enough time for the Spoilers to pull close.
The first big play came early in the game. Kole Jenson punted after Devils Lake’s second drive was stalled. His punt bounced inside the five and two plays later Demers tossed a little pass to the right flat that was caught by the Grafton wide receiver, who was tackled before he could exit the end zone by Jordan Schneider for a safety.
That narrow 2-0 advantage held for Devils Lake until midway through the second quarter when Jenson got loose for a nine-yard scamper to paydirt and the Firebirds led 8-0.
Demers hit a leaping Jiskra with just under four minutes left in the half to put the Spoilers on the board.
Eriksson got loose on the right side and ran in from 10 yards out with 44 seconds left in the half to extend Devils Lake’s lead to 15-6 at the break and Sam Desai pushed in from one yard out in the third quarter for the Firebirds final score.
“We moved the ball well in the third and fourth quarter,” Devils Lake coach Jay Schneider said, “but when we got to the red zone we mishandled the ball and had some penalties that we will address.
“But, we kept battling,” he added. “(Grafton) has a nice defensive line and we got a good win.”
Jenson who rambled for 162 yards in the season opener at Valley City, finished with 142 yards on Friday. He carried the ball 27 times and caught a pair of passes for 24 yards.
Desai finished with 51 yards on nine carries.
Eriksson completed seven of 15 passes for 78 yards. He was intercepted three times.
“(Grafton) got in my head,” Eriksson said. “A couple of those early hits got me thinking.
“We’ve got to get together as a team and talk,” he added. “Our tempo has been lacking in practice and we can’t afford to have another game like (Friday).”
Grafton 0 6 8 6 — 20
Devils Lake 2 13 7 0 — 22
DL – Jordan Schneider safety, 8:13.
DL – Kole Jensen 9 run (kick failed), 7:36.
Grafton – Adam Jiskra 23 pass from Joey Demers, (pass failed), 3:43.
DL – Beau Ericksson 10 run (Austin Pearson kick), :44.
DL – Sam Desai 1 run (Pearson kick), 2:57.
Grafton – Demers 6 run (Zachary Suda pass from Demers), :25.
Grafton – Jiskra 20 pass from Demers (run failed), 22.6.
Rushing – Kole Jenson 27-142, Sam Desai 9-51, Beau Eriksson 11-18, Austin Pearson 1-4.
Receiving – Jenson 2-24, Nate Mertens 2-22, Tanner Hoffmeyer 2-22, Jordan Snyder 1-10,