DAKOTA BOWL: Warbirds pound Wells County for 9-man title

Wyndmere-Lidgerwood has been under the radar since it dropped its season opener 22-20 to Hillsboro, a game in which two Warbirds two-way starters were unavailable.

North Dakota 9-man title game
Kelly Illies (22) of Wyndmere-Lidgerwood leaps over Wells County's Kyle Hart (33) during a third quarter run in the North Dakota 9-man championship game Friday in Grand Forks. Herald photo by John Stennes.

Wyndmere-Lidgerwood has been under the radar since it dropped its season opener 22-20 to Hillsboro, a game in which two Warbirds two-way starters were unavailable.

"That took a lot of pressure off us,'' W-L senior quarterback Brock Wieber said. "And it gave us more motivation. It opened our eyes; we saw that we could be beat. We took things more seriously after that.''

The Warbirds are under the radar no longer. Wyndmere-Lidgerwood set a Dakota Bowl record for points Friday, beating Wells County 54-12 at the Alerus Center in the North Dakota 9-man high school football championship game.

Wyndmere-Lidgerwood closed the season with a 12-1 record and a 12-game winning streak. Wells County -- playing its last game, as it is headed for a co-op with Harvey next season -- finished 10-2.

The title game marked the eighth time in the Warbirds' last 10 games that they've had 50 or more points. They were nearly unstoppable, scoring touchdowns on eight of their first nine possessions.


"I don't want to sound like I'm bragging, but it's pretty much what we've done almost all year,'' Warbirds coach Scott Strenge said.

"Our offense has been effective all year. Our line played well. And we have great skill-position kids. They can take it all the way from anywhere, at any time.''

Avalanche of points

The Warbirds had 14 plays covering more than 10 yards, including six touchdowns. And W-L came out in quick-strike mode -- with some help from the defense -- with 26 first-quarter points.

Jeff Illies hauled in a 51-yard pass from Ryan Orth to open the scoring. Wieber added 1- and 12-yard scoring runs and passed to Luis Vasquez for a 28-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Two of the scoring drives were short -- 1 and 25 yards -- after a pair of Tyler Meyer fumble recoveries.

"You have to give (the Warbirds) credit,'' Wells County coach Jon Bertsch said. "They're a good team. They're fast. They're physical.

"When we're successful, we're grinding it out. To try to come back from that (26-0 deficit after one quarter) was hard for our style of offense.''

Wyndmere-Lidgerwood led 32-0 at halftime and 48-6 after three quarters. Wells County got second-half touchdowns on runs of four yards by Koby Houchin and one yard by Caleb Rogelstad.


The Warbirds' second-quarter touchdown was an unusual one. On an end-around receiver pass play, quarterback Orth fumbled without being hit. But the ball bounced to Vasquez, who picked it up and connected with Jeff Illies for a 34-yard touchdown pass.

"I thought the ball would roll on the ground and I'd be chasing it,'' Vasquez said. "But it bounced right to me, and Jeff was open.''

That's how the offense went for W-L, which had touchdown passes from four players when Adam Bell connected with Orth in the third quarter.

"We haven't had that all year,'' Strenge said.

Neither have the Warbirds had a ranking of higher than fifth in the weekly state poll. But they came out on top of the state in the end.

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