Spartans use ball control, strength to edge out Firebirds 27-14

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal
Journal Photo
Devils Lake sophomore quarterback Jacob Mertens tracks down an open receiver before completing a pass at home Saturday.

By Harry Lipsiea

Journal Sports

Controlling the line of scrimmage, ball control and momentum are all important factors in the game of football. On Saturday afternoon at Roller Field, those three things were all on Fargo North’s side in an EDC clash with Devils Lake.

The Spartan offense drove the ball down the field from beginning to end racking up 416 yards with 315 of them on the ground. Even more significant than the team’s yardage was its ability to keep the ball in its hands. Fargo North ran 74 plays compared to just 45 by Devils Lake in the Spartans’ 27-14 victory.

“Give Fargo North credit, they won the line of scrimmage and in the trenches on both sides of the ball,” Jay Schneider, Devils Lake head football coach, told the Journal.

Despite the Spartans controlling the action much of the way, it was extremely competitive game throughout. The Firebird defense fought all game long, but the Spartans made big plays in key spots.

The most important play of the game came on fourth and goal from the four-yard line with less than eight minutes remaining in the contest. Trailling by just seven, the Firebirds were looking for a gigantic stop.

Devils Lake defended the play well as the secondary and linebackers took away the pass and the defensive line forced Fargo North quarterback Mike Boutain out of the pocket.

When it looked like a turnover on downs for the Spartans, the senior gunslinger dashed to the edge and dove his way forward to find paydirt giving his team an important touchdown. and a 27-14 lead.

“Boutain made plays with his arm and legs and we weren't able to stop him,” Schneider pointed out. “We couldn't get off of the field on 3rd and 4th downs on defense which prolonged their drives and time of possession and eventually points on the board.”

Neither team was able to get back on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter as Fargo North held on to the ball for around five minutes after making a defensive stop. The team earned the EDC victory.

Boutain finished with all four Spartan touchdowns. He was five-of-nine passing with 101 yards and two touchdowns. On the ground, he had 69 yards and two scoring plays on nine attempts.

Offensively, Devils Lake accumulated 165 yards.

Bradley Davidson finished with 32 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.

Through the air, Jacob Mertens completed 10 of 20 passes for 108 yards. He also had 18 yards rushing and a touchdown on 10 carries.

Jordan Swanson and Davidson led the receiving with 28 yards each.

The first back was a case of a team scoring and the other answering back.

The Spartans jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a 40-yard pass play from Boutain to Willy Roman.

After three straight completions through the air, Mertens plunged in for a one-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 7-6.

Early in the second, Boutain ran 20 yards on a quarterback keeper to find the end zone giving the Spartans a 13-6 advantage.

The Firebirds took their first and only lead of the game with 8:27 remaining in the second as Davidson scampered seven yards for a touchdown. Sean Olson ran the two-point conversion to make the score 14-13 in favor of the Firebirds.

Boutain connected with Roman for a 31-yard touchdown pass to give Fargo North a 21-14 halftime lead.

The four-yard touchdown by Boutain in the fourth was the only scoring play of the second half.

With the win, Fargo North improved to 2-2 in the EDC while Devils Lake dropped to 1-3.

On Friday, the Firebirds host Grand Forks Red River.