Cougars Fall Short at State Championship
The North Prairie [Rolette-Wolford-Rolla] Cougars (11-1 overall, 6-0 in region) went into the Fargodome last week coming off an undefeated regular season and playoffs.
So did their opponents.
“They were a tough team and that took advantage of opportunities and made plays. When two good teams are playing, mistakes are generally caused by good play from the opposition,” Cougars head coach Terry Motl said of the team on the other side of the field, the Richland Colts.
The Colts (14-0 overall, 7-0 in region) started the scoring drive at the Dakota Bowl with senior quarterback Brady Heyen completing a 36-yard pass to wideout Travor Flaa for a touchdown, and junior running back Jake Ihland then ran it in for the two-point conversion. Heyen later connected with Flaa again on a two-point conversion after a 41-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Lingen.
The Cougars responded in the second quarter, first with a safety. The second happened with senior quarterback and athlete of the year Jalen Pfeifer on a 27-yard touchdown run. Pfeifer then connected with senior wide receiver Bryce Leonard for a two-point conversion, and later the two connected again on a 33-yard touchdown pass, ending the first half 22-16.
The Cougars only scored once in the third quarter, with a short pass to sophomore running back Gabe Leonard. Ihland then got the running game going for the Colts, running on two two-point conversions and a 38-yard touchdown.
The Cougars were able to force a turnover with an Alex Abrahamson interception. Pfeifer was able to connect with junior tight end Brody Cahill on two successful touchdown plays, one of which tied the game in the final minute.
After a squib kick, Heyen passed to Lingen, who then threw to Travor Flaa, who ran with it the rest of the way and ended the game in the Colts’ favor, 44-38.
To get to the Dakota Bowl, the Cougars defeated Hettinger-Scranton, New Salem-Glen Ullin and Richardton-Taylor-Hebron (who knocked out the TGU Titans).
Motl said that as the season progressed, winning in the trenches proved to be an advantage.
“Offensively and defensively, we were able to control the line of scrimmage. Being able to control the tempo and run the ball kept teams off the field, but also opened up the deep ball for us,” Motl said. “Additionally, solid, open field tackling was something we did very well this season. The players accepted and understood their roles and trusted each other. When you only have to worry about your job and responsibility, it makes the game easier, as opposed to wondering if your teammate would be able to do his job. Trust and communication were great throughout the year.”
Motl said that in addition to Pfeifer, Cahill and offensive/defensive lineman and future NDSU Bison Karson Schoening, and several others emerged as leaders on the field.
“These guys more than stood out with their play,” Motl said. “Karson allowed us to do many different things on both sides of the ball. Jalen did the same. He could lock down opposing wr’s and his offensive play was unbelievable. Brody Cahill (TE/LB) had a real nice season for us. He was our top receiving threat and blocked very well. Defensively, he played a hybrid Linebacker/Safety position and made our calls. He could drop into coverage (5 picks) and come up and stop the run. Tayler Scott (RB/LB) ran very hard for us and had 1,422 rushing yards with 11 tds. He was unselfish and didn’t care who got in the endzone, but that we did. Garrett Munro also had a stellar year for us. He led the team in tackles with 116 (17 total TFL). He made the plays he could and really got of blocks well. Alex Abrahamson was a two way starter that stayed under the radar, but played solid all year on both sides. We could lean on him when needed and he played a great championship game. Tucker Boucher and Linden Stave helped anchor the offensive line which contributed to 3,197 yards rushing. Paul Kurtti and Casper Daniel helped secure the defensive line which allowed 163 total points (13.6 per game). Really, it was a team effort, as previously mentioned, where guys bought in and trusted each other. I do not believe anyone was in it for individual accolades, even though some will get those.”
– Tribune Staff Report
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