GLYNDON, Minn. — The pregame introductions had nothing to do with individuals, but more of a congratulations, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton and Pequot Lakes, you made it this far in Minnesota Class 3A, Section 8 football. The postgame COVID-19 non-handshake was in three parts.
Players from the Rebels’ offense and Patriots’ defense exchange high fives and fist bumps with the clock in the final seconds. Once D-G-F ended with a 27-0 victory, both teams raised their helmets to each other followed by a group prayer with both teams kneeling and facing each other.
Afterward, in the waning moments of D-G-F head coach Tony Soderberg’s post-game speech to his team in the south end zone of the Rebels’ field, players visibly had tears in their eyes. And this from a team that won its last game of the season.
“I guess it’s a coach’s dream to get to a game where win or lose, it’s the last game because that usually means we’re in a different place than we are right now,” Soderberg said. “So it’s bittersweet.”
It was bittersweet because the last game usually means a state championship game. But D-G-F made the best of it and dominated at the line of scrimmage. Running back Justin Wang had 30 carries for 174 yards and the Rebels defense threw a shutout.
But it was also the final game no matter what after Gov. Tim Walz this week announced a four-week pause for high school athletics, effectively ending the football season after Friday. The D-G-F-Pequot Lakes game was moved from Saturday to Friday because of the government order.
D-G-F, the No. 2 seed, was originally going to play East Grand Forks.
“We thought we were playing East Grand and with one practice, we found out we were playing Pequot,” Wang said. “So we just transitioned and it worked out for us.”
Transition probably best describes the season for D-G-F, which finished unbeaten at 6-0.
“You had to be ready for anything,” Wang said. “You didn’t know if you were going to play the next day or if it all was going to get shut down, like it got now.”
The Rebels took the opening kickoff and went 68 yards in 10 plays, getting help from the Patriots when a D-G-F punt hit a Pequot Lakes player. Wang scored from the 1 and the two-point conversion made it 8-0.
The Rebels made it 15-0 early in the second quarter on Wang’s 45-yard touchdown run. They took that advantage into the fourth quarter when quarterback Payton Doran took advantage of a Pequot Lakes defense that was crowding the line of scrimmage waiting for Wang.
A 33-yard touchdown pass to McKale Pierson gave D-G-F a 21-0 lead. The dagger came after the Patriots fumbled on their first play after the kickoff and the Rebels recovered. Rebels receiver Preston Johnson outdueled a Patriot defensive back and took Doran’s pass for a 41-yard touchdown play. Both of Doran’s completions went for touchdowns.
“Preston Johnson is a special football player, he went after that ball,” Soderberg said.
The head coach wasn’t immune from the emotion of the night, either. Moments later, the Rebel senior players gathered at midfield.
“You get to see them grow up, see them mature and then they’re gone,” Soderberg said. “But that’s the story of coaching any high school sport every year. So hats off to the seniors to go through this season and what they did with schedule changes. They’re awesome.”
PL 0 0 0 0 — 0
DGF 8 7 0 12 — 27
DGF — Wang 1 run (Wang run)
DGF — Wang 45 run (Pierson kick)
DGF — Pierson 33 pass from Doran (kick failed)
DGF — Johnson 41 pass from Doran (pass failed)