The Minnesota Army National Guard selects our Two Stars of the Game:
24 carries, 132 yards, 2TD
1 reception, 7 yards
27 carries, 203 yards, 1TD
1-3 passing, 15 yards
Stephen-Argyle didn’t have to worry about a curse of November 15th. 5-years to the date of their last defeat, the Storm kept raging. They knocked off Verndale 35-14 in a 9-man semifinal at the dome, their 66th-consecutive win, and keeping them on track for a state record 5th-straight state title.
“November 15th is good, it’s 5-days to payday,” joked Stephen-Argyle head coach Mark Kroulik when asked about a potential curse. He actually didn’t even know the date of his team’s last loss. “Thinking about that a little more, that seems so long ago,” he said. “I wasn’t even very gray back then.”
He wasn’t gray, and his players were not even green. This year’s seniors were in 8th-grade the last time to Storm lost, and they were not ready to surrender the winning streak.
Stephen-Argyle got off to a slow start, being held scoreless on their first two possessions. Things started to open up for the Storm midway through the first quarter. Taylor Swanson finished off a 6-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown run, his first of 2-scores on the day, and the Storm was up 7-0.
Kip Thorstenson called his own number and scored on the quarterback sneak with 5-minutes left in the half to put Stephen-Argyle ahead 14-0. Then came then turning point of the game. Verndale started to click on offense, and they marched down to the 10-yard line. But the Pirates were out of timeouts, and the Storm defense kept them off the scoreboard. Stephen-Argyle headed to half with an extra swagger.
“We went into the locker room with momentum when we were able to stop them,” said Kroulik. “They were rolling at that point and we weren’t doing a very good job stopping them.”
Momentum continued to wear a Stephen-Argyle jersey after that. The Storm forced Verndale into a 3-and-out to start the second half, and then the Storm’s offense went to work. They pieced together a 10-play, 52-yard drive, highlighted by a conversion on 4th-and-1 at midfield. Swanson capped things off with his second touchdown, this one a 13-yard trot. The drive also whittled over 5-minutes off the clock, on put Verndale down 21-0. Thorstenson scored his second touchdown of the game late in the 3rd quarter to make it 28-0 and pretty much seal the deal.
Verndale found the end-zone twice in the 4th quarter, but it was academic at that point. Verndale wraps up their season at 10-2. The Storm are now 12-0, and on course to make history next week in the Prep Bowl against either Wheaton or Waubun. But don’t expect Kroulik to play that card with his team.
“Monday, we are going to be focused on the next game, not that we are going for a 5th-straight title. [Next week’s game] is the one we want to win,” he said. “At some point,” he did admit, “I’m going to sit back and go ‘Oh Wow’”.