FARGO --- Thompson’s offensive leader, quarterback Cadyn Schwabe, left the Nov. 9 9-man state championship game early in the third quarter with a collarbone injury.
He left with the Tommies clinging to a 16-14 lead over New Salem-Almont-Glen Ullin.
However, backup Clay Odenbach kept the Thompson offensive machine rolling.
The 6-foot-7 junior threw for 95 yards (5-for-9) and ran for another 24 in the second half for the Tommies, who outlasted the Holsteins 42-28 at the Fargodome to capture their second state title in three years.
Thompson coach Brady Schwab said playing without a dual-threat quarterback who racked up nearly 3,000 yards and 50 touchdowns passing and rushing before the championship game is cause for concern, but he felt comfortable with Odenbach calling the signals.
“Clay hasn’t played much this year, but he has lots of ability. He was given a chance today and he sure stepped up,” said Schwab, whose team finished 12-0. “He made plays with his arm and his legs. He gave us more than we would have hoped for. Other kids stepped up, too, after Cadyn left the game. This team has a lot of character and a lot of determination.”
Odenbach made an immediate impact. After the Holsteins (11-1) closed within two, 16-14, with 11:10 remaining in the third quarter on a 70-yard Evan Henke-to-Braden Zuroff touchdown pass and a Henke-to-Zuroff 2-pointer, Odenbach finished off a 9-play, 65-yard scoring drive with a 33-yard fourth-down pass to Marcus Hughes. Odenbach then tossed a 2-point pass to Garrett Webber to make it 24-14.
The Holsteins answered with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Henke to Garret Soupir and another Henke-to-Zuroff 2-pointer, and regained possession moments later when linebacker Chauncey Dittus recovered a Thompson fumble on the Tommies’ 42. However, NSAGU turned the ball over on downs four plays later on the 34. From there, Thompson marched 66 yards to the end zone in 10 plays, scoring on a 3-yard run by Hughes with 1:21 left in the third. Odenbach was 3-for-4 for 52 yards on the drive. He connected with Nicholas Reck for 14 yards on a third-and-eight, and with Chance Danner for 25 yards to the NSAGU 5 on a fourth-and-two.
“Clay showed so much composure on those two drives,” Schwab said. “Those were huge passes he completed.”
A Hughes interception three plays after the ensuing kickoff set the Tommies up on their own 41. Ten plays later, Reck took a handoff and flipped the ball to Hughes, who found Hayden Overby in the end zone for a 29-yard scoring play. With 8:43 remaining in the contest, the Tommies led 36-22.
The Holsteins made it a one-possession game 1:36 later when Henke threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Soupir. A Thompson three-and-out followed, and NSAGU started its next possession on its own 40. Four plays later, the Holsteins tried to convert a fourth-and-18, but Henke’s deep pass just missed Soupir’s reach near the midfield with 4:00 left.
The Tommies then used nine running plays to get into the end zone for the sixth time. Hughes capped off the drive with a 1-yard run with 1:10 remaining.
Schwabe passed for 66 yards and rushed for 88 before the injury. Hughes and Reck contributed 148 and 124 total yards, respectively. Hughes had seven catches for 76 yards, and Reck had 93 yards rushing on 25 carries.
“They’re just so good on offense … so many weapons,” said NSAGU coach Steve Kleinjan, who was named 9-man Coach of the Year. “We did a nice job moving the ball, but we had a difficult time making stops.”
The Holsteins struck paydirt first. Zuroff’s 20-yard punt return put NSAGU on the Thompson 43, and after a false-start penalty, Soupir went 40 yards on a reverse to the 8. Henke gained three yards on a keeper and on the next play, Zuroff took an inside handoff, broke a tackle at the 3 and made his way into the end zone with 10:53 remaining in the second quarter.
Thompson responded with touchdowns on back-to-back possessions. Schwabe broke loose for a 40-yard scoring run, and he and Overby connected for the 2-point conversion to give the Tommies an 8-6 lead with 9:11 left in the second.
After an NSAGU three-and-out, Thompson put together an 8-play, 58-yard touchdown drive, scoring on a 6-yard pass from Schwabe to Danner. On the try for the extra two points, Odenbach’s pass was deflected in the end zone by Dittus, but the ball caromed into the hands of Hughes.
Earlier in the half, the Holsteins’ Isaiah Huus recovered a fumble on the Tommies’ 47, but the possession ended seven plays later on the 25.
“We got a couple of turnovers on their side of the 50, but we couldn’t take advantage,” Kleinjan said. “It was a game of missed opportunities for us. There were plays on offense that we just missed, and some missed tackles that could have made a difference. To beat a team like that, just about everything has to go right. But I’m proud of the kids. They kept battling to the end.”
Henke, the 9-man Senior Athlete of the Year, completed 16 of 27 passes for 255 yards in his final high school game, but the Holsteins’ running game produced 122 yards — only 82 without Soupir’s 40-yard run. Zuroff, a 1,000-yard rusher, was held to 14 yards on 11 carries.
“They did a nice job up front. They took away one of our strengths,” Kleinjan said. “Give them credit.”
Zuroff did catch five passes for 129 yards. Soupir and Dittus each had three receptions for 74 and 32 yards, respectively.