Thrice age: L/E/M clinches 3rd straight Class A Championship over Lisbon
The way the Cardinals felt at the FargoDome in 2017 was a feeling they never wanted to have again: loss. That loss to Hillsboro-Central Valley stuck in the heads of L/E/M players and motivated them to never be in that mental state again.
"That loss freshman year has motivated us these past three seasons," senior quarterback and NDHSAA Class A Senior Player of the Year Simon Romfo said. "We knew that we never wanted to feel that way again. We knew we didn't want to lose and it's paid off."
37 games later, that promise remains intact. Friday morning in Fargo, No. 1 Langdon/Edmore/Munich (12-0) recovered from a halftime deficit to defeat No. 2 Lisbon (11-1) 42-28 for its third straight state title. Things may be different in the world the Cardinals live in, but Cardinals head coach and NDHSAA Class A coach of the year Josh Krivarchka said the feeling of winning will always be the same.
"Everything is different, but I'm overall proud of the guys," Krivarchka said. "This is the ultimate goal. To have kids that have lost one football game in four years is what you dream of. Our kids competed at a high-level today and I couldn't be more proud."
L/E/M's senior class bookends their career with one of the most dominant runs in NDHSAA Class A football history, being one of two teams to three-peate in Class A next to Velva-Sawyer from 2003 to 2005. It's what some of these seniors couldn't have dreamed of, including senior running back Grant Romfo.
"It's special to come out here and win a third championship," Grant said. "I wanted to play in the Dakota Bowl in middle school, so to come out and play four, and win three, is just surreal."
Grant and Simon have played a key role in the Cardinals' success throughout their time in the program, with Grant leading L/E/M on scoring, rushing, receiving, and defending and Simon controlling the backfield in the regular season. While it was the twins' last performance donning the red and white, the duo dominated the same way they have over the past 37 games.
Grant and Simon would score all six of the Cardinals' touchdowns with Simon moving the ball off the rush and the pass, and Grant finishing off the drive with a score. Grant would score three times from inside the Broncos 5-yard line, including a score that capped off a 65-yard shot from Simon to sophomore running back Carter Tetrault to move the chains to the Broncos six. Grant would finish with 65 receiving yards and 17 rushing yards.
While Simon was keyed in on the passing game, finishing with 130 yards, he would balance out his performance in the backfield with a team-high 135 rushing yards, highlighted by a 51-yard scoring drive in the third quarter to put the Cardinals up by 16. After throwing two interceptions in the first half, Simon leaned in on his team's, along with a new ball, to come back and close out the game.
"I made a couple of bad plays in the first half and I knew if we just came out and executed in the second half we would get it rolling," Simon said. "I just told everyone this what we worked for all year and we just had to come out and do it. The only adjustment I made was I switched out the ball, but I knew I just needed to make big throws."
Another aspect L/E/M's coaching staff leaned on was simplifying the game and not doing too much to get the lead back. While Simon did make long drives and passes into Bronco territory, once the Cardinals got to the goal line, they made sure the ball broke the plane.
"We were just trying to be a little too fancy at times," Krivarchka said. "I thought we had to simplify the game for a while to get them to come up and when we had opportunities our kids struck and made big plays."
Lisbon didn't waste any time keying into and suppressing Simon as much as they could, forcing the quarterback to his rushing game. Simon would fall on the wrong end of a pick-six score in the first quarter, however, Simon, his teammates, and Krivarchka weren't worried about their performance or the score that was leaning in favor of the Broncos.
"We knew that they were going to be keyed into wherever Simon goes, so we knew it was going to be tough at times," Krivarchka said. "Our kids made plays when they needed to and credit to them."
In the locker room, down four at halftime, the Cardinals never lost focus and never stopped believing. It's one of the benefits the team has had in ending the past four seasons at the FargoDome according to Grant.
"We had a lot of confidence in the locker room and we knew we just had to come out, do our job and execute," Grant said. "We have a lot of players who have a lot of big-game experience, so we know what it takes to win big football games."
L/E/M would outscore Lisbon 26-8 in the second half, to take back the lead and put up their 24th straight 40-point game. The Cardinals haven't been in too many losing positions over the past four seasons, however, experience in the big game boosted the Cardinals' confidence.
"Everyone just had great optimism and stayed up," Simon said. "We believed that once we got rolling that they weren't going to be able to stop us. We just wanted to get going."
With the season coming to a close, the Cardinals will be losing both Simon and Grant, along with wide receivers Roger Economy and Cooper Zimmer, running backs Drew Simpson and Skyler Fincher, and guard Alex Cluchie. The Romfo twins have expressed interest in playing in college, but have not decided where.
As celebrations continue in Fargo and Langdon, there is also a celebration of having the chance to play an entire season during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Cardinals saw first hand what the pandemic can do, after receiving a BYE into semifinals after opponent Oakes was forced to forfeit due to a positive COVID-19 case in the program.
The Cardinals win not only represents another year of Cardinal domination in NDHSAA Class A but the understanding of how they were able to keep the dream alive in a time where it could've been easily taken away.
"We were facing some adversity when we didn't play Oakes and it was a disadvantage not to get an extra game," Grant said. "The uncertainty of this season, and being able to finish it, makes this win special."
NDHSAA Class A State Championship: L/E/M vs. Lisbon box score
Langdon/Edmore/Munich: 0, 16, 14, 12 - 42
Lisbon: 12, 8, 0, 8 - 28
7:18 6-0 LIS: Jordan Sours TD (LIS), 2PT NO
4:58 12-0 LIS: Robert Adam TD (LIS), 2PT NO
11:56 12-8 LIS: Simon Romfo TD (LEM), 2PT GOOD
3:58 20-8 LIS: Averey Dick TD (LIS), 2PT GOOD
0:14 20-16 LIS: Grant Romfo TD (LEM), 2PT GOOD
8:16 24-20 LEM: Grant Romfo TD (LEM), 2PT GOOD
2:10 30-20 LEM: Grant Romfo TD (LEM), 2PT NO
11:35 36-20 LEM: Simon Romfo TD (LEM), 2PT NO
5:23 42-20 LEM: Simon Romfo TD (LEM), 2PT NO
3:22 42-28 LEM: Hunter Schultz TD (LIS), 2PT GOOD