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Thompson rolls to a 54-0 win over Grafton in season-opener

Tommies took a 28-0 lead in the first quarter, then let the defense take over from there

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Thompson's Karter Peterson (4) gains extra yardage as Grafton defender David Perez comes in for the tackle during their game Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Thompson.
Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald
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THOMPSON – On a dark corner of the field and in front of a scoreboard that still showed the final score, Thompson football coach Alex Starcevic breezed through a series of post-game questions from print and radio media.

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Grafton senior Chance Burns looks to gain yardage against Thompson's defense during the first half of their game Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Thompson.
Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald

He got stumped, however, on one: What was more impressive — the Tommies’ defensive effort or the ease with which his offense moved the ball?

“Oh, boy. That’s a good question,” he said. “I’d say I’m probably equally impressed. I love that we limited our mistakes tonight. ... I’m very proud of the way they came out and played. They deserved this one tonight.”

Thompson took a commanding early lead, had more than 400 yards of offense and limited Grafton to fewer than 25 rushing yards in earning a 54-0 season-opening win Friday. While Thompson’s offense had little trouble moving the ball, the Tommies’ defense was equally impressive at stopping just about everything Grafton attempted throughout the game.

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Thompson's Brody Gibson looks for yardage during the first quarter of the Tommies' 54-0 win over Grafton Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Thompson.
Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald

Thompson took a 6-0 lead with 9:20 to play in the first quarter when quarterback Jake Starcevic scored on an option keeper from the 9-yard line. He scored again with 6:14 left in the first quarter on a 1-yard dive and then again three minutes later on a 10-yard keeper up the middle.

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By the time the 6-3, 195-pound quarterback found Reece Berberich on a 13-yard touchdown pass with 25 seconds to play in the first quarter, it was 28-0.

And the way Thompson’s defense was playing, the game essentially was decided by that point.

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Thompson quarterback Jake Starcevic looks downfield during a first-quarter run Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Thompson. Also shown are Grafton defenders Hayden Perez (3) and Chago Galvan (55).
Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald

“I wasn’t surprised by them. I know they have a lot of good athletes and they’re really well-coached,” said Grafton coach Dave Muhonen. “But I was a little surprised by us, quite honestly. I thought last week (in a scrimmage) we were a lot better against an equally good team. They came ready to play and we weren’t even in the same zip code. We can grow from it.”

Grafton gained 56 yards passing and had a tough time on the ground – worsened by a 19-yard loss on a bad punt snap. Quarterback Tony Villarreal was 5-of-15 for 53 yards.

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Grafton and Thompson play their high school football game under a rainbow on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022.
Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Grafton. At one point just before halftime, the Spoilers went on a six-minute drive that saw them go from their own 13 – thanks to a strong defensive stop by the Grafton defense – to the Thompson 24. The drive was aided by three completions by Villarreal, including a quick-hitter to Chance Burns that went for 28 yards.

But like it did throughout the game, Thompson’s defense stiffened and stopped the drive with an interception at the 6-yard line, just before halftime. It was the closest Grafton came to the end zone all night.

Thompson got an impressive game from Jake Starcevic, who started two games last season at quarterback. He was 10-of-16 passing for 116 yards and also had 158 yards rushing on 16 carries, including one twisting, broken-tackle run down the sideline en route to a 24-yard gain. He had three rushing touchdowns and threw for two more.

“Grafton is a pretty good team, but I thought we were really prepared for this game,” said the sophomore, who also had an interception and was in on at least one sack. “Our line moved everyone off the ball and really opened it up for the skill players to do their stuff. I think we have a good group of guys here.”

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Thompson had 280 yards rushing, also getting 50 from Berberich on 11 carries. The Tommies threw for more than 150 yards; along with Starcevic’s 116 yards, backup quarterback Drew Overby completed two passes for 42 yards.

The offensive line, coach Alex Starcevic said, deserved credit.

“Hats off to those guys. We had a lot of guys who scored and did some good things and had a lot of yards, and we also stopped them defensively. But none of that happens without those guys up front,” he said.

As for his sophomore quarterback – who also is his son – Alex Starcevic said “he’s a really good athlete and we can find ways to get him and our other athletes the ball.”

“His leadership has really come a long way and his ability to throw the ball has really come a long way,” he said. “He put a lot of time in this summer and attended a few quarterback camps. It paid off – tonight, anyway.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: Statistics are unofficial, based on data compiled by the Herald.

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
Korrie Wenzel has been publisher of the Grand Forks Herald and Prairie Business Magazine since 2014.

He is a member of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. board of directors and, in the past, has served on boards for Junior Achievement, the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, United Way, Empire Arts Center, Cornerstones Career Learning Center and Crimestoppers.


As publisher, Wenzel oversees news, advertising and business operations at the Herald, as well as the newspaper's opinion content.



Wenzel can be reached at 701-780-1103, or via Twitter via @korriewenzel.
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