FARGO — Thompson quarterback Calen Schwabe did to the New Salem-Almont-Glen Ullin Holsteins on Friday what he had done to 11 other opponents this season.
Pass, run and lead the Tommies to a victory.
The 6-foot, 173-pound senior racked up 346 yards from scrimmage and accounted for five touchdowns as the No. 1-ranked Tommies rolled to a 54-20 win over the No. 5 Holsteins in the 9-man football state championship game, played at the Fargodome.
Schwabe completed seven of 13 passes for 162 yards and four touchdowns, and carried eight times for 184 yards and a six-pointer. The 9-man senior athlete of the year topped the 1,000-yard mark in both passing and rushing this season.
“What can I say? He’s something special,” Thompson coach Brady Schwab said of Schwabe. “He’s run our offense for a few years and what a job he’s done. Passing, running … he’s so good at what he does.”
The humble Schwabe said it’s all because of his supporting cast.
“What I’ve done this year I couldn’t have done without the guys around me,” he said. “It all starts up front. Our offensive line has been awesome all year. The running backs and receivers … there are a lot of go-to guys in that group. This is a great team and I’m so proud to be a part of it.”
Running back Adam Diedrich added 233 yards and three touchdowns for the Tommies, who capped off a dominant 12-0 season and captured the first football state championship in school history. Thompson made only one other state title game appearance — 1995, when it lost to New England-Regent.
“It feels great to make history today,” Schwabe said. “We worked hard for this. We knew at the start of the year that we had the talent to do it, and we put together a great year.”
Schwabe’s day didn’t start well. His first pass attempt was intercepted by New Salem-AGU’s Braden Zuroff on Thompson’s third play from scrimmage. However, he engineered four scoring drives in five possessions, and the Tommies carried a 28-12 advantage into halftime.
Schwabe started the scoring with an 83-yard keeper with 6:48 remaining in the first quarter. After New Salem-AGU punted, the Tommies marched 80 yards to paydirt in eight plays, scoring on an 11-yard pass from Schwabe to Collin Grotte.
The Holsteins quickly evened the count at 12. Quarterback Evan Henke’s 1-yard sneak with 9:24 left in the second quarter capped an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Henke completed three passes for 70 yards in the march, including a 39-yarder to Tanner Slag that put the Holsteins on the Thompson 3.
A short Thompson punt followed, and four plays later, Henke scored from the 4-yard line with 6:19 to play in the first half.
However, it wasn’t long before the momentum shifted back to Thompson. On a fourth-and-three play from the Holsteins’ 10, Schwabe found Cole Sorby running alone in the end zone for the go-ahead score. Schwabe and Brett Sutter-Hegg connected for the 2-point conversion to make it 20-12.
After a New Salem-AGU three-and-out, the Tommies took over on their own 37 with only 40 seconds remaining. Three plays later, Schwabe flipped a screen pass to Sorby, who zig-zagged his way through the Holsteins’ defense for a 52-yard score. Schwabe later passed to Marucs Hughes for the two extra points.
New Salem-AGU coach Steve Kleinjan said the second Schwabe-to-Sorby touchdown was critical.
“If we were down 20-12 at the half, we would have thought we were in good shape. But being down by 16 was too big of a hole to dig out of against a team with so many weapons,” said Kleinjan, the 9-man coach of the year. “We didn’t think we were out of it, but we knew how difficult it was going to be to catch them.”
The Schwabe-to-Sorby combination struck again early in the third quarter, this time for a 66-yard score with 9:50 left.
After a Sorby interception, the Tommies drove 73 yards and scored on a 5-yard run by Diedrich. Schwabe highlighted the march with a 48-yard run.
The Holsteins cut into the deficit with a 38-yard touchdown pass from Henke to favorite target Shane Forster. The same combination connected for the 2-point conversion.
However, Diedrich capped off his huge afternoon with scoring runs of 53 and 30 yards.
New Salem-AGU finished the season 10-2 after advancing to the state championship game for the first time since it won it all in 1986.
“The ultimate goal was to win the state championship, but I can’t tell you how proud I am of our kids,” Kleinjan said. “Nobody expected us to be here at the start of the year, but the kids worked their tails off every day and played darn good football.”
Henke completed 14 of 34 passes for 207 yards, and Forster hauled in seven aerials for 117 yards.