High School Football: Verndale earns repeat trip to state
FARGO, N.D.—Jake Ismil and Brayden Vertina scored the only two touchdowns for the top-seeded Verndale Pirates who earned a trip to the state tournament for the second year in a row with a 12-0 win over the No. 2 Underwood Rockets in the Section 4 Nine-Man Final at the Fargodome Friday, Nov. 2.
It was the lowest offensive output of the season for the unbeaten Pirates who averaged 43.8 points in their first 10 games and are the state's third-ranked team.
It was also the third shutout for the Verndale defense, including a 28-0 regular season victory over Underwood Sept. 14. That was the only loss of the regular season for the Rockets who have otherwise averaged 35.9 points a game.
Friday, Ismil scored on a two-yard run in the first quarter and Vertina caught a 6-yard strike from quarterback Tate Bounds in the third. The conversion attempts for both TDs failed.
Verndale finished with a 232-196 advantage in total yards. The Pirates rushed 46 times for 190 yards led by Matt Steege's 16 carries for 116 yards and Jarret Kveton's 75 yards on 22 carries. Bounds completed six of 11 passes for 42 yards including three to Vertina for 30 yards.
"That was the best defense we've run up against," said Verndale head coach Mike Mahlen. "They played us tough. I think we could have maybe thrown more, but the way the game went, it just didn't dictate that.
"Underwood had only eight running plays and four passing plays in the second half. We were controlling the ball in the second half and there was no reason to pass."
This is Verndale's second straight trip to state and 18th appearance in the Pirates program history. Last year, they lost 34-6 in the quarterfinals to Spring Grove, the eventual state champs. Verndale won the nine-man title in 1997 and 2002 and it was runner-up in 1987, 1994 and 1996.
"I've been more than pleased with this season," said Mahlen. "We lost 15 seniors last year, but these kids have played better as a team than any I've had. They're very unselfish. It seems like every week somebody different was stepping up and getting the plays."
The Pirates next face undefeated and sixth-ranked Mountain Lake at Buffalo High School 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, in State Nine-Man quarterfinals. The 10-0 Wolverines outscored their opponents 378-66 during the regular season. After a first-round bye in the Section 3 tournament, they beat Nicollet 55-12 and Hills Beaver Creek 34-0 in the title game.
Underwood 0 0 0 0—0
Verndale 6 0 6 0—12
V-Jake Ismil 2 run (pass fail) 9:41
V-Brayden Vertina 6 pass from Tate Bounds (run fail) 0:17
Rushes-yards: V 46-190, U 33-120
Pass comp-att-int-yds: V 6-11-0-42, U 5-15-1-76
Total offense: V 232, U 196
Rushing: V-Matt Steege 16-116, Jarret Kveton 22-75; U-Thomas Noyes 8-36, Wyatt Thorson 10-36
Passing: V-Tate Bounds 6-11-0-42; U-Daxton Olson 5-15-1-76
Receiving: V-Brayden Vertina 3-30
Overall: V 11-0, U 9-2. Next: Verndale in Nine-Man State Quarterfinals vs. Mountain Lake at Buffalo High School 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9.