A Shanley stunner
DETROIT LAKES - "Don't fix what is not broken."
That's the old adage the Shanley football team lived by late in the game against Detroit Lakes Friday evening, as the visiting Deacons went to a familiar connection which helped them bring in a North Dakota Class 2A state championship last year.
And it produced very similar successful results.
Senior quarterback Myles Montplaisir pulled out a late fourth quarter comeback and he had a familiar helper in senior wide receiver Josh Rodenbiker, as the Deacon duo hooked up again for a game-winning touchdown with no time on the clock to sink the Lakers 23-21.
With only six seconds left in regulation and Shanley trailing 21-17, the Deacons faced fourth and six, when Montplaisir hit Rodenbiker in the left corner of the end zone as time expired.
Rodenbiker was able to snag the well-placed throw, while dragging his feet in bounds for the dramatic ending.
"I saw they were doubling me up with a safety on the top," Rodenbiker said of the grand finale play. "I ran a post-corner route and they bit on my inside move and Myles laid it in there. I knew I was close to being out of bounds, so I just tried to drag my feet."
Montplaisir's pass fit into a tight area between the out of bounds line and the Laker defender.
And like last year, he did with ease.
"I knew I had to get the ball to Josh, he's our big playmaker," Montplaisir said. "I figured they would bite on his inside move and all I had to do was hit him."
It was a play the Shanley offense was setting up much of the game and there wasn't going to be a better time to use it.
"They really defended Josh well the entire game and we were setting up that post corner route for Josh and Dylan (Dunn)," said Shanley head coach Steve Laqua. "So we decided to take the shot then. I thought DL defended the play well, it was just a great pass into the end zone."
It's not like these kinds of dramatics are new to Montplaisir and Rodenbiker, though.
The Deacon offense pulled off similar comebacks in the Class 2A state semifinals and finals, where they beat Devils Lake for the champion-ship 31-30 in overtime.
The two state playoff drives Montplaisir directed last year, was replicated Friday evening and it all started with a kickoff return by Stefan Webber.
After the Lakers pulled their second lead of the game on a nine-yard Joe Mollberg touchdown run with 53 seconds left to put DL up 21-17, Webber scooped up a squib kick on the ensuing kickoff on the Shanley 40.
He found a seam and shot down to the DL 45, with just 47 seconds remaining.
Montplaisir calmly ate up chunks of yardage through the air, hitting Nick Salentine for nine yards and Dunn for 14 on a third and one slant to the Laker 19 with 22 seconds remaining.
A short four-yard flat pass to Dunn and consecutive incompletions forced fourth and six with six seconds remaining, before the pass to Rodenbiker was completed.
But from the start of the drive, there was plenty of confidence brewing around the Deacon huddle.
That was even after Montplaisir had a crucial fumble on Shanley's last drive, setting up DL's go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"You can't change what happened in the past, you can only affect what happens for the future," Montplaisir said. "You have to have a short memory."
It was very familiar emotions for Laqua, who has seen Montplaisir and his teammates pull off late-game heroics before.
"These are all kids of character on and off the field," the Shanley coach said. "It just shows through on Friday nights."
Montplaisir finished the game going 12-27 for 132 yards, a rushing touchdown and an interception.
The Laker defense was tough on both the run and pass for the majority of the game, holding Shanley to 111 total yards on the ground.
The Deacons had only three plays in the third quarter alone.
"That was frustrating, it was hard staying patient snapping only three plays in the third quarter, after they pretty much held us in check in the first half, too," Laqua said.
The Lakers had several early miscues which led to a sluggish start, beginning with a snap over the punter's head after the Laker's first possession, setting Shanley up on DL's 28.
The Deacons marched for a touchdown in five plays, capped on a Webber five-yard end zone rush.
DL responded after holding Shanley on downs in the second quarter, putting together a 12-play, 70-yard drive, mostly on the legs of Mollberg, who had 25 yards rushing.
He finished the it with a three-yard dive off of right tackle to tie the game.
Shanley jumped ahead 10-7 on a Dan Jordan 36-yard field goal to break a 7-7 tie 6:24 left in the third.
"We're confident in Dan's kicking ability," Laqua said. "He owns the state playoff record for the longest field goal last year."
But the Lakers used the arm of Mollberg for a 46-yard catch-and-run touchdown by junior wide receiver Brian Labat, who made a nice cut after the grab to hit the open field.
It continued to go back and forth, as Shanley capped a 10-play 56-yard drive on a Montplaisir one-yard dive for the 17-14 advantage with 8:22 left in the fourth quarter.
It seemed like the Deacons were going to run the clock out with time ticking down and Shanley on DL's 36, but Montplaisir coughed up the ball on a third and six run up the middle, as Laker senior Jon Gilson recovered it.
That set up DL's final score, with Mollberg taking four rushes for 30 yards to end the 36-yard drive and put DL up 21-17.
Mollberg ran for 91 yards on 26 carries, while throwing for 103 yards, a touchdown and completing 7-10.
But in the end, it was just another breath-taking ending for the Shanley squad.
"I don't know if my heart can hold out for many more of those," Laqua laughed.
The Lakers will face another North Dakota state champion Friday, when they travel to Bismarck for a 7 p.m. start.
Shanley at Detroit Lakes, Friday, Sept. 3.
Deacons 7 0 3 13 - 23
Lakers 0 7 7 7 - 21
Shan: Stefan Webber 5-yard run; Dan Jordan kick. :23, 1st.
DL: Joe Mollberg 3-yard run; Steven Labine kick. 3:02, 2nd.
Shan: Strom 36-yard field goal. 6:24, 3rd.
DL: Brian Labat 46-yard pass from Mollberg; Labine kick. :33, 3rd.
Shan: Myles Montplaisir 1-yard run; Jordan kick. 8:22, 4th.
DL: Mollberg 9-yard run; Labine kick. :53, 4th.
Shan: Josh Rodenbiker 15-yard pass from Montplaisir. 0:00, 4th.
Rushing (att-yds-yds lost-net) -- DL: Joe Mollberg 26-101-10-91; Alex Mason 8-22-0-22; Bryce Dutton 1-0-5-(-5); Logan Baker 3-12-0-12; Nate Baker 3-12-0-12...Shan: Myles Montplaisir 15-81-12-69; Tyler Rivard 4-23-0-23; Stefan Webber 10-24-5-19.
Passing (att-comp-inc-int-yds-td) -- DL: Mollberg 10-7-2-1-103-1...Shan: Montplaisir 27-12-14-1-132-1.
Receiving (rec-yds-td) -- DL: Brian Labat 3-65-1; Josh Stal-berger 3-32-0; Rick Hutchinson 1-6-0.