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Odenbach, Berberich come up big for Thompson in 28-14 season-opening win

Coming in to play quarterback in the second half, Kyle Odenbach was able to grab a rushing touchdown and Reece Berberich collected 99 yards on the ground with a touchdown to secure the win.

Thompson Oak Grove 1.jpg
Thompson High School running back Reece Berberich (5) pushes for extra yardage as Oak Grove defenders Spencer Schumacher (19), Andrew Green (32) and Cody Card (far right) close in during their game Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, in Thompson. (Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald)
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Before Jakob Starcevic even attempted a pass, he was able to show off his athleticism in Thompson’s 28-14 win over Oak Grove on Friday as the North Dakota high school football season kicked off.

The natural quarterback and sometimes wide receiver has been taking snaps under center this summer while Kyle Odenbach was sidelined with an injury, before being cleared to play on Thursday. In the season opener, he was able to showcase his dual-threat capabilities by combining with Reece Berberich on the Tommies' opening drive.

“After I heard the news about Kyle, it was obviously terrible news, but I was ready to step in,” Starcevic said.

The duo each carried the ball five times and capped the 60-yard drive with a 10-yard Starcevic touchdown.

For Odenbach, it was exciting to watch Starcevic perform in the season opener after being alongside him in preparation for the season.

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“It was fun watching him progress throughout the summer and he did fine tonight. I was able to work with him at UND camps and really help him get ready for it,” Odenbach said.

But before they could make a reasonable dent on offense, Starcevic would suffer an injury and leave the game. This would bring in Odenbach into the game, which was earlier than expected for Odenbach or Tommies head coach Jake Schauer.

“I have all the comfort and all the confidence in the world in Jake. He’s advanced as a freshman,” Schauer said. “But at the end of the day, he and Kyle are very different. So, I think I got a little too comfortable calling plays for Kyle. So it really changed everything on the script and we went back to how we call plays for Kyle.”

After a 62-yard Connor Welsh punt return touchdown on the next drive, Starcevic was able to roll out and show off his arm by connecting with Berberich, Welsh and Tyler Cunningham to bring Thompson all the way down to the goal line. However, his next throw would be an interception in the end zone.

Despite the lows any quarterback may experience in a start, Schauer was comfortable with the quarterback situation and remains that way going forward.

“Being able to use Jake as that chess piece, things start to click. Now, that’s not saying Jake won’t play quarterback next week but we’ll see what happens,” he said.

Starcevic and the Tommies would try to answer again in the first half, but could not find the connections needed through the air.

Throughout the first half, the Thompson defense was able to keep Oak Grove at bay. The Grovers tested their rushing defense but the likes of Josh Juve, Troy Peterson and Max Roller limited Cody Card and Rylee Bakkegard to minus 16 yards rushing and one first down in the first half.

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Receiving the ball in the first half, Schauer and the Tommies felt there was a need to capitalize on their productive drives on offense that resulted in no scoring.

“I think what happened is we got a little too comfortable and we’re tired. I said early in the game we need to condition more. You condition all summer but at the end of the day, we got a lot of kids playing two ways and you either get used to that or get run over,” said Schauer.

With Odenbach under center, they would head back to the rushing attack with some newfound energy. The senior and Berberich were able to fight from their own 30 down the four-yard line before Odenbach shuffled his way in to extend the Tommies’ lead to 20-0.

“I didn’t even expect to play tonight. I got cleared yesterday so it was kind of a surprise when I got in there,” Odenbach said. “But there’s a lot more versatility because I’m left-handed. The stuff we were running to the right side they were kind of catching onto. So when I ran in and we could run that same stuff to the left-hand side they maybe didn’t expect it.”

The Grovers would immediately answer. Their first explosive plays of the game came back-to-back on a Trevon Rodriguez 32-yard run and a 51-yard pass from Bakkegard to Card and resulted in a short touchdown run from Rodriguez to complete the 97-yard drive.

As for Starcevic, he would enter the game again out wide and seemed to settle back into his receiver role. He reeled in a 25-yard catch and run on a long third down and was able to set up a Berberich touchdown.

Again, the Grovers were able to pull off a deep pass with Bakkegard hitting Card in stride again for a 42-yard completion and set up another touchdown. This time Bakkegard hit Schumacher in the endzone.

Needing to take up some time with just over two minutes left, the Tommies converted one first down but were shut down quickly after and punted the ball away with one minute left. But, a big blow-up in the backfield on a reverse would seal the game as Odenbach would take one final kneel shortly after.

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“Kyle means so much to this football team, whether it be his leadership or what he physically brings to the field. We wanted to get Jake a little experience and get his feet wet and see where that takes us. We know our region is going to be very very tough this year” Schauer said.

Thompson 28, Oak Grove 14

First quarter

T -- Jakob Starcevic 10 run (PAT failed)

T -- Connor Welsh 62 punt return (Starcevic run)

Third quarter

T -- Kyle Odenbach 4 run (Odenbach pass to Cunningham)

Fourth quarter

OG -- Trevon Rodriguez 8 run (Johnson kick)

T -- Reece Berberich 11 run (PAT failed)

OG -- Spencer Schumacher 16 pass from Rylee Bakkegaard (Johnson kick)

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

RUSHING -- T: Reece Berberich 18-99-1, Jakob Starcevic 4-61-1, Kyle Odenbach 4-23-1; OG: Trevon Rodriguez 5-47-1, Jesse Peterson 4-24

PASSING -- T: Odenbach 6-7, 69 yards, Starcevic 3-8, 36 yards; OG: Rylee Bakkegard 7-12-1, 129 yards

RECEIVING -- T: Tyler Cunningham 4-30, Berberich 2-21, Starcevic 2-28, Connor Welsh 1-6; OG: Cody Card 5-102, Spencer Schumacher 2-20-1, Peterson 1-4

Related Topics: FOOTBALLPREP SPORTSTHOMPSON
Digital Content Producer and Sports Reporter at the Grand Forks Herald since December of 2020. Maxwell can be contacted at mmarko@gfherald.com.
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