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Prep football: Devils Lake uses big play to down Valley City

DEVILS LAKE -- Jason Berg spent the season-opening football game on the sideline here Friday night, wearing his Devils Lake jersey with the No. 23 and blue jeans. An ankle injury kept the 2008 all-state running back out of the game.

DEVILS LAKE -- Jason Berg spent the season-opening football game on the sideline here Friday night, wearing his Devils Lake jersey with the No. 23 and blue jeans. An ankle injury kept the 2008 all-state running back out of the game.

Minus the power-running Berg, the Firebirds had a change in style.

"Without Jason, we don't run as much power," Devils Lake senior running back Ben Wolf said. "Usually, Berg is the one who grinds it out. But we definitely have the speed to break long plays at any time."

The big-play offense led Devils Lake to a 41-6 win against Valley City in a matchup of high school teams with statewide success in recent seasons. Valley City was state runner-up in the Class AA playoffs last season; Devils Lake finished second in 2007 and was eliminated in the semifinals last season.

Wolf ran for 141 yards and two touchdowns. He set the tone immediately; on the game's first play from scrimmage, he took a pitch to the left, cut into the open field and went 73 yards untouched for a touchdown.

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"I like the big plays. They get everyone going and get you momentum," Wolf said.

Every scoring drive for the Firebirds had at least one big play.

Brock Davidson's diving catch of a Cole Boehmer pass for 29 yards gave DL a first down on the 1-yard line, setting up a Wolf run that made the score 14-6. Beau Eriksson went 40 yards on a quarterback draw for DL's third touchdown. The Firebirds went up 27-6 with 14 seconds left in the first half when Calvin Crawford sprinted down the right sideline and was open in the end zone, where Eriksson hit him for a 26-yard touchdown.

"I prefer more of the grind-it-out style," DL coach Jay Schneider said. "It hurts when you lose a power runner like Jason, who gained 800 yards last season. But we'll take (a touchdown) any way we can get it."

The second-half scores included a long drive that included 15-, 16- and 22-yard runs by Wolf that was capped by Boehmer hitting Crawford for an 11-yard TD. Jason Swenseth returned an interception 42 yards.

Devils Lake had a 348-172 advantage in total offense, even though Valley City ran 52 plays to the Firebirds' 44.

"We executed," Schneider said. "We have some team speed. And sometimes you call some plays that work out for you."

For Valley City, the loss comes after it went undefeated during the 2008 regular season, with its only setback of the year coming in the state title game.

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"This is a different team," said Hi-Liners coach Scott Roehrich, whose team got a first-quarter touchdown on a 6-yard run by Jordon Thomsen. "We haven't talked much about last year. Our focus is getting this team ready. We know we have work to do.

"Devils Lake is a good team. They outplayed us, and we made too many mistakes."

DeVillers reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1128; (800) 477-6572, ext. 128; or send e-mail to gdevillers@gfherald.com .

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