Since the beginning of the 2013 football season, St. Mary’s has had Fargo Shanley’s number
The Saints recorded six victories without a loss against the Deacons during the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 campaigns, a record that included a 2-0 mark in the postseason.
St. Mary’s will try to add to that streak tonight when the two teams meet at the Community Bowl in a battle of Class AA football’s two remaining unbeaten teams. Both St. Mary’s and Shanley are 5-0 and are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the statewide poll.
The previous six meetings were intense battles, and St. Mary’s coach Dan Smrekar expects nothing different tonight.
“It’s turned into a great rivalry. It’s two very good teams with great traditions, and any time there’s a match-up like that you know it’s going to be a battle,” he said. “Every game we’ve played the last few years has been a good one, and once again there will be a lot at stake on Friday.”
Smrekar said St. Mary’s past successes against the Deacons mean absolutely nothing.
“You don't look at what you did in the past ... you don't think about it. It’s a new year and the teams are different,” he said. “The games have been close. We’ve managed to make a few more plays than they did, and a few times the ball just bounced our way. If Shanley had gotten a break or two, they might have won some of those games. We’re going to be facing another good team on Friday and we know we have to be ready to play our best game.”
The Saints were rolling along until last Friday night, when they outlasted No. 3 Jamestown 17-10 at Jamestown. In its four previous games, St. Mary’s outscored its opponents 168-0. At Jamestown, the Blue Jays stymied the Saints’ running game, while racking up more than 200 yards rushing themselves.
“Jamestown is a good team … a tough, physical, grind-it-out team that plays good solid defense,” Smrekar said. “They played a close game against Shanley, too (14-7 Shanley on opening night). We had a difficult time moving the ball against them, but we also hurt ourselves with turnovers and penalties. We’ll need to play a cleaner game against Shanley. One thing that I was really pleased with was our defense. We bent a little, but overall we played very well on that side of the ball.”
The top defenders for the Saints last Friday were linebackers Jonah Krebs and Mason Spies, linemen Jayce Hoesel, Joseph Richter and Sam Schweitzer, and defensive back Luke Kambeitz.
St. Mary’s will face a loaded Shanley offense, led by quarterback Kaden Kueneman, running backs Haley Bucholz and Josh Johnson, and tight end Jake Kava. Johnson, Bucholz and Kava were all-state selections in 2016.
The Deacons are averaging 37.6 points per game.
“They’re the best team we’re going to face this year. They have so many weapons and they’ve put a lot of points on the board,” Smrekar said. “They have a good quarterback and they have lots of speed at the running back and receiver positions. They’re like the Shanley teams we’ve seen in the past. Defense was a big reason why we won those games.”
Last week the Saints generated most of their offense through the air, as quarterback Cole Gendreau threw for 120 yards on 13-for-25 passing. Kambeitz caught nine passes for 83 yards.
“We did enough to score 17 points and win the game. We’re going to need a more balanced attack against Shanley,” Smrekar said. “Establishing a running game will be a key for us.”
Imperials vs. Lions
After six games, Napoleon-Gackle-Streeter and Linton-Hazelton-Moffit-Braddock are the only unbeaten teams remaining in 9-man Region 3.
After tonight, one team will stand alone.
The two rivals will clash tonight in Napoleon, with the winner clinching the top seed in Region 3. Napoleon-GS is 5-0 in the region, while Linton-HMB is 4-0. Both teams are 6-0 overall. Tonight's region game will be Napoleon-GS's last. Linton-HMB will complete its region slate on Oct. 6 against LaMoure-Litchville-Marion.
Napoleon-GS coach Kelly McCleary said getting motivated won't be a problem for either team.
“This is a rivalry and rivalry games are fun, especially when a region championship is on the line,” he said. “It’ll be two undefeated teams playing for something they’ve been working really hard for since the start of the year. These are the kinds of games you look forward to playing.”
Napoleon-GS finished second in Region 3 last year, but started 2017 with a new quarterback. Dalten Jangula, a dangerous two-way threat, graduated, but Jamison Fettig stepped in and has performed admirably. So far he has racked up 1,069 total yards and accounted for 14 touchdowns (eight passing and six rushing). Fettig, a senior who was a second-team all-state receiver in 2016, has thrown for 474 yards and rushed for 595.
“Jamison was a receiver last year and he’s adjusted really well to the quarterback position,” McCleary said. “He can do a lot of things. He’s more of a scrambler than Dalten was … he can get out of the pocket and make things happen with his arm and his legs. He’s been a big playmaker for us.”
Fettig is backed by a potent running attack, led by junior Nathan Weigel, who has rushed for 1,007 yards and 12 touchdowns on 129 carries.
“Nathan has been a huge weapon,” McCleary said. “A lot of credit goes to our offensive line. We have some experience there and we knew going in that it would be one of our strengths.”
McCleary said his defense will have its work cut out tonight. Linton-HMB is averaging 40.3 points per game, with quarterback Cole Baumiller and running back Landon Twardoski leading the way. Baumiller has completed 70 of 118 passes for 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns. His favorite targets are Jack McCrory (23 receptions, 487 yards, 10 touchdowns), Chandler Nagel (13-210, 2 TDs) and Lance Weiser (13-144, TD). Twardoski has rushed for 925 yards and nine six-pointers.
In a 48-14 victory over Herreid-Selby last Friday night, Baumiller connected on 22 of 32 pass attempts for 338 yards and five touchdowns – three to McCrory.
“Linton is the first two-dimensional team that we’ll face this season. All of the teams that we’ve played so far mostly run the ball,” McCleary said. “They’re a tough team to prepare for because they have a lot going on. They’re a big-play team and we have to find a way to slow them down and make them earn everything.”
McCleary said Linton-HMB is stellar on defense, as well.
“All of their kids know what their jobs are. They do a nice job recognizing things and getting themselves into position to make plays,” he said. “It'll be a big test for both defenses.”
Region 5 title game?
If Shiloh Christian and New Salem-Almont-Glen Ullin win tonight it would set up a Region 5 championship game next Friday night at Shiloh’s Miller Field.
Both the Skyhawks and Holsteins are 5-0 in the region and 6-0 overall. Shiloh, the No. 3-ranked team in 9-man football, will host Richardton-Taylor-Hebron tonight, while New Salem-Almont-Glen Ullin will entertain Hettinger-Scranton.