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Jack Simmers leads Grand Forks Central past Wahpeton 28-14

The Knights sophomore rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns in the victory at Cushman Field.

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Grand Forks Central running back Jack Simmers picks up a first down on a long run in the first quarter against Wahpeton Friday at Cushman Field. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Jack Simmers started the game with a bang.

The Grand Forks Central sophomore running back ripped off 46 yards on his first three carries. Then, he punched in his fourth carry of the drive on third-and-goal to give Grand Forks Central a 7-0 lead.

Simmers didn't let up at all.

He finished Friday night's game with 153 yards rushing on 31 carries and two touchdowns in the Knights' 28-14 win over Wahpeton at Cushman Field.

“He's a very athletic kid who is still learning how to run the ball,” Central coach Bill Lorenz said after the win. “But his athleticism is off the charts. It’s been great to see him improve week to week.”

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The message going into the game was to bring more offensive consistency. Simmers brought that on each carry, fighting for extra yards and helping the Knights march down the field.

His first score gave Central a 7-0 lead and his second one put the Knights ahead by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Central improved to 1-2 on the season.

“We’re going to enjoy this one for 24 hours, I'll tell you that much,” Lorenz said. “Then we’re back to work Sunday evening.”

The Knights rebounded after last weekend's loss to rival Red River in the Cushman Classic.

“I was happy with the way they prepared this week,” Lorenz said. “There were no excuses. We needed to come out and be more consistent. I’m happy for these guys.”

After Simmers put the Knights ahead 7-0, the Huskies responded when Blake Schafer hit Tori Uhlich down the sideline for a 76-yard touchdown pass. Central answered instantly, though, blocking the extra point and recovering an onside kick attempt to put them at midfield with a 7-6 lead.

Simmers powered the Knights across midfield and down to the 5-yard line. He did not finish the drive but made an impact acting as the main distraction on a fake reverse, leaving Bryce Philpot to take the 5-yard pitch to the end zone.

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“We wanted to go in and run the ball down their throat right away and that was the game plan," Simmers said. "Start early and get a lead early."

Later in the second quarter, with Simmers as the center of attention, Knights quarterback Dylan LaMont and wide out Sam Strandell connected for the first time for 27 yards, putting Central inside the Wahpeton 10 once again. LaMont finished what he started by taking a 4-yard keeper to the end zone. Central added a two-point conversion to make it 22-6 at halftime.

The Knights' focus quickly shifted to learning to hold their first lead this year.

Central had only scored six points in their first two games and found itself ahead by two touchdowns against a Wahpeton team that scored 79 points in its first two games.

“There was a lot of excitement, needless to say," Lorenz said. "We just had to take a deep breath and try to calm them down a little bit. They came out right away and I thought we handled that adversity well.”

A bad snap in punt formation gave Wahpeton the ball inside the 15-yard line. The Huskies immediately took advantage when Caden Kappes hauled in a 6-yard touchdown pass from Schafer and added the two-point conversion to make it 22-14.

The Knights put the game away in the fourth quarter, though.

Facing a third-and-long, LaMont floated the ball toward Strandell, who bobbled it as he fell and eventually hauled it in for a completion. Simmers followed that up with a trick of his own on a 27-yard touchdown run.

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“The play was originally supposed to go down the middle,” Simmers said looking back to the field. “But I had to bounce outside, got past one guy and was able to stay inbounds somehow and then I guess I dove in.”

That score put the Knights ahead 28-14 and solidified the consistency they were looking for on offense. The defense, meanwhile, held the Huskies off the scoreboard the rest of the game.

“They tried to run the ball in the first half and we were happy to shut that down,” Lorenz said. “Then they came out slinging it in the second half so our kids just needed to sit in their zone and let their eyes do the work for them.”

Grand Forks Central 28, Wahpeton 14

First quarter

GFC - Jack Simmers 4 run (Wilbur kick)

WHS - Blake Schafer 76 pass to Tori Uhlich (kick failed)

GFC - Dylan LaMont 5 pass to Bryce Philpot (Wilbur kick)

Second quarter

GFC - LaMont 4 run (LaMont pass to Strandell)

Third quarter

WHS - Schafer 6 pass to Kappes (Schafer pass to Kappes)

Fourth quarter

GFC - Simmers 27 run

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

RUSHING -- GFC: Jack Simmers 31-153-2, Dylan LaMont 9-25-1, Isaac Hoverson 6-27; WHS: Jacob DeVries 9-13

PASSING -- GFC: Dylan LaMont 6-11-1 85 yards; WHS: Blake Schafer 31-49-2 387 yards

RECEIVING -- GFC: Sam Strandell 3-65, Bryce Philpot 3-20-1; WHS: Tori Uhlich 8-193-1, Beau Arenstein 11-98, Caden Kappes 9-85-1, Colin Samuels 2-9, Jacob DeVries 1-2

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Grand Forks Central's Zach Kuznia blocks a point after attempt by Wahpeton kicker Treyton Mauch in the first half of their game Friday at Cushman Field. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

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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