Another upset for NCE-U-H, Titans win section title
FARGO - The clock hasn't hit midnight on Cinderella just yet. The No. 5 next to the Norman County East-Ulen-Hitterdal (Minn.) football team representing the Titans' seed in the 9-man, Section 6 tournament is no more.
FARGO – The clock hasn’t hit midnight on Cinderella just yet. The No. 5 next to the Norman County East-Ulen-Hitterdal (Minn.) football team representing the Titans’ seed in the 9-man, Section 6 tournament is no more.
All that is next to NCE-U-H is “section champion” after a 29-20 win over No. 2-seeded Nevis at the Fargodome on Thursday. It isn’t like that No. 5 meant anything to the Titans anyway.
Even if it was the highest seed playing in a section championship game in Minnesota.
“Kids said it was just a number, and they were right,” NCE-U-H coach Dustin Flaten said. “We felt like our best ball was in front of us coming into the playoffs.”
No real numbers were in the favor of NCE-U-H with the playoffs. There was No. 4 seed Fergus Falls Hillcrest in the section quarterfinals. There was top-seeded and No. 2-ranked Waubun in the section semifinals. Norman County East hadn’t won a section championship since 1993, and Ulen-Hitterdal hadn’t won one since 2006.
All those numbers fell, and when DeForrest Nelson came down with his second interception Thursday with 44 seconds to go, there was no need for seeding. The Titans were going to the state quarterfinals.
“I don’t even know what happened,” Nelson said. “I don’t even know what to do. This is just crazy. This is just fun.”
NCE-U-H (8-3) was up by two with 6 minutes, 56 seconds to go, and the Titans marched 66 yards and took 4:41 off the clock. Hunter Thompson bounced off defenders and into the end zone to make it a 28-20 game. Those hits woke him up from the dream.
“Instantly, it hit me,” said Thompson, who finished with 141 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. “It hit me like a stone wall. I can’t even explain it. It’s just something else.”
Zepher Resnick wasn’t able to lift his foot last week before the Waubun game. The junior nailed the extra point to put the Titans up nine and NCE-U-H could taste victory.
When that kick went through the uprights, there was one thing going through Flaten’s mind.
“Long time coming,” Flaten said. “It was a weight lifted off our shoulders. We’re celebrating, but we’re still focused and ready to go.”
Thompson certainly was ready Thursday, as he went 63 yards on the first play from scrimmage for a touchdown. Nevis responded on the ensuing drive, marching 59 yards on seven plays to tie the game 8-8. Both teams swapped touchdowns on the next two drives, but NCE-U-H stuffed the 2-point conversion attempt, just as it had on the final play against Waubun in the section semifinals for the one-point win.
NCE-U-H used more than seven minutes to score with 4:40 left in the first half on a 9-yard pass from Brett Braseth to Nelson to take a 22-14 lead into the break.
Nevis (9-2) lost its starting quarterback and leading playmaker Austin Becker for the rest of the game on the ensuing drive, but the Tigers didn’t go quietly. On fourth-and-goal from the 7-yard line, Kiefer Miller found Courtland Chase for a touchdown, but Miller was stuffed on the 2-point try to keep the score at 22-20 in favor of NCE-U-H. The Tigers would get no closer, and the co-op that is in just its second year was left celebrating the shedding of the No. 5 seed.
“It’s just a number,” Nelson said. “Numbers don’t mean anything. Final score is the only thing right now.”
NCE-UH 16 6 0 7– 29
Nevis 14 0 6 0– 20
NCE-Thompson 63 run (run good)
N-Spenst 25 pass from A. Becker (run good)
NCE-Busby 10 run (pass good)
NCE-Nelson 9 pass from Braseth (pass failed)
N-C. Chase 7 pass from Miller (run failed)
NCE-Thompson 10 run (Resnick kick)
RUSHING: N, Hitchcock 4-14, Miller 20-69, A. Becker 8-60, G. Becker 2-7. NCE, Thompson 19-141, Busby 3-29, Kraft 19-79, Nesert 2-2, Braseth 2-2.
PASSING: N, A. Becker 3-6-0 106 yards, Miller 7-19-1 105 yards. NCE, Braseth 3-6-2 28 yards, Thompson 0-1-1 0 yards.
RECEIVING: N, Spenst 2-65, G. Becker 7-137, C. Chase 1-7. NCE, Nelson 2-19, Lee 1-9.