Lakers defeat Velva to secure spot in semis

DES LACS – It may have been just one play, but it was a big one for the Des Lacs-Burlington football team and a costly one for the visiting Aggies.

Holding a five-point lead and facing fourth-and-3 from Velva’s 8-yard line in the closing minutes, DL-B senior quarterback Austin Schestler used a hard count to draw the Aggies offside. The penalty gave the Lakers a first down and senior running back Alex Davy punched it in from 2 yards on the ensuing play.

Davy rushed for two touchdowns and the Lakers scored 19 unanswered points in a 19-7 victory against Velva on Saturday in a Class A quarterfinal game. DL-B hosts defending Class A state champion Hazen on Saturday for a spot in the Dakota Bowl.

“Anytime you get a win in the playoffs it’s a great feeling,” DL-B coach James Johnson said. “I’m just happy for the kids. The kids have put in all the work and I’m very proud of them.”

The Lakers (10-0) rushed for 195 yards on 51 carries, led by junior running back Eric Knutson. The 195-pound back ran for 93 yards and a touchdown on 20 attempts. Knutson said he knew the Lakers were going to win after Velva’s costly infraction.

“We knew they were going to jump,” he said. “We knew it because they were ready. They wanted to get the ball.”

Velva (6-4) committed five penalties totaling 25 yards.

Despite the miscues, the Aggies started fast. Velva took the opening kick and drove down to the Laker 9-yard line on the legs of running back Michael Thingstad. The 195-pound senior carried the ball seven times for 39 yards on the opening drive, but Velva failed to score after senior Chris Peterson’s field- goal attempt went wide left.

The Aggies scored on their next possession to take a 7-0 lead with 4:30 remaining in the first quarter. Thingstad broke off a 58-yard run to the DL-B 7-yard line and ran it in the next play.

DL-B responded in the second quarter on Davy’s first 2-yard touchdown run. Velva blocked the extra point and led 7-6 at halftime.

“We knew they would (come out strong),” Johnson said. “They’re a well-coached football team and a class act. I think our kids dug in a little bit and played with some Laker pride. We got some momentum swinging after we scored and I thought we came out in the second half and fought real hard.

“I have to give a lot of credit to the offensive line. Our offensive line just marched it down the field. They were challenged this week and they rose to the challenge.”

Both Lakers lines stepped up in the second half. The defensive line held Thingstad in check over the final two quarters, limiting him to 32 yards. Thingstad finished with 164 yards on 21 carries.

“We need to put more points on the board,” Velva coach Larry Sandy said. “In hindsight, I’d probably come out with a different game plan offensively. I thought we would be able to do a little more movement up front than we did. They had the answer for us and we couldn’t really get any rhythm, especially in the second half.”

DL-B’s running attack got going after halftime as the Lakers consistently won the battles up front. Knutson ran through a large hole up the middle for an 18-yard touchdown to give the Lakers their first lead of the game with 2:12 left in the third quarter.

“It changed momentum big time,” Knutson said, “and we just took it from there.”

DL-B gained 112 yards rushing in the second half while chewing up valuable minutes.

After turning the ball over five times in their first-round victory against New Salem-Almont-Glen Ullin, the Lakers were error-free Saturday. The Aggies committed two turnovers – an interception and a fumble – and were stopped on fourth-and-2 at DL-B’s 27-yard line.

“This was a good playoff football game,” Sandy said. “Both teams really got after it and in the end the difference was what they were able to do up front both offensively and defensively. They won the majority of the battles and that’s the story.”

Mike Kraft covers high school athletics, the Minot State University men’s club hockey team and the Minot Minotauros. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.