NEW SALEM -- Garret Soupir made the biggest play of his high school football career early in the fourth quarter of a 9-man semifinal game on Saturday.
And he made it just when the No. 2-ranked New Salem-Almont-Glen Ullin Holsteins needed it most.
Soupir, a 5-foot-10, 160-pound senior wide receiver from Glen Ullin High School, scored on a 45-yard catch-and-run on a third-and-19 play with 10:10 remaining in the game, giving the Holsteins a 12-7 lead over the Ray-Powers Lake Outlaws. New Salem-AGU went on to score again and walked off a wet and muddy Gaebe Field with an 18-7 victory and a berth in the 9-man state championship games. The Holsteins, who improved to 11-0, will take on No. 1 Thompson (11-0) today at the Fargodome. It will be New Salem-AGU's second state championship game appearance in three years.
Trailing 7-6, the Holsteins had a first down on the Outlaws' 36-yard line, but were pushed back to the 44 after quarterback Evan Henke fumbled the snap from center. Braden Zuroff was then dropped for a 1-yard loss on second down, setting the stage for Soupir's heroics. Henke threw a deep pass to Soupir toward the right sideline where Ray-PL defensive back Hayden Parizek appeared to be in position to make a play on the ball. However, Soupir jumped up and snatched it away near the Outlaws' 25, and then broke free to complete the scoring play.
"That was definitely the biggest play I've ever made," Soupir said. "(Parizek) had a chance at the ball, but I wasn't going to let him get it. After I made the catch I turned around and saw an open field in front of me. I was thinking nothing was going to stop me from getting to the end zone."
New Salem-AGU coach Steve Kleinjan said Soupir has been a money receiver the past two seasons. In that time, he has caught 61 passes for 1,236 yards and 18 touchdowns.
"Garret has made a lot of big plays for us, and that had to be the biggest one yet," he said. "He made a tough catch and gave us a lead that we had tried so hard to get. If he doesn't make that play, who knows what might have happened."
Soupir, a second-team all-state selection in 2017, is grateful to have had the opportunity. He broke a collarbone during the Holsteins' 60-18 victory over Richardton-Taylor-Hebron on Sept. 21 and was sidelined for three games. He returned to action Oct. 27, playing only on offense in New Salem-AGU's 50-14 quarterfinal win over Shiloh Christian. He played on both sides of the ball on Saturday.
"It was tough sitting out all of those games, but I was confident that my teammates would keep winning and give me a chance to play again," Soupir said. "It's great to be back. I'm glad I was able to help my team win this game."
The New Salem-AGU offense, which entered the day averaging 55.9 points per game, came to life after a miserable first half -- one that saw the Holsteins gain 92 total yards and turn the ball over three times. Ray-PL (10-1) scored the only touchdown of the half on a 75-yard run by running back Brock Viall with 2:55 left in the first quarter. Pedro Oliveiro added the PAT.
The second half was a different story. The Holsteins racked up 226 total yards and scored on their first three possessions.
The Holsteins marched 70 yards to the end zone in 12 plays on their first possession of the second half, scoring on a 5-yard run by Zuroff with 5:53 remaining in the third quarter. Henke was sacked on the try for the 2-point conversion and the score remained 7-6 Ray-PL.
After forcing an Outlaws punt, New Salem-AGU put together a 9-play, 74-yard scoring drive that Henke and Soupir finished off with a 45-yard pass.
A Ray-PL three-and-out followed, and the Holsteins began their next possession on the Outlaws' 35. Four plays later, Henke scored on a 1-yard sneak to make it 18-7 with 6:31 left.
After the ensuing kickoff, Ray-PL moved into New Salem-AGU territory, but the drive stalled on the Holsteins' 30 with 4:02 remaining. The home team then used nine plays to run out the clock.
The New Salem-AGU defense held the Outlaws to 58 yards in the second half after allowing 160 in the first 24 minutes. The Holsteins made a key fourth-down stop on their own 5 late in the second quarter, halting a 20-play Ray-PL drive that consumed more than 10 minutes.
Chauncey Dittus recorded a team-high 12 tackles for the Holsteins, and Henke had 7.5 stops and two quarterback sacks.
Offensively, Zuroff rushed for 112 yards in the second half and finished with 138 on 21 carries. Henke had 78 yards passing (5-for-9) and 50 rushing, and Dittus 43 yards rushing and 21 receiving.