Golden Eagles soar over Rangers in homecoming win

Doreen Heintz
Sports Editor

Per tradition, the Golden Eagle football team sings the school song to their faithful fans at the conclusion of the homecoming win over Park on Friday night.                                                                                                                                                       

Photo by Doreen Heintz

Using a strong defensive effort and a solid offensive performance, the Golden Eagle football team shut out Park, 35-0, for their first conference win of the season. It was also the first time in recent memory there was a running clock due to the 35-point mercy rule. The score became 35-0 at the 4:23 point of the third quarter when Isaac Fry zig-zagged his way to the end zone on a Park punt return of 65 yards and Tanner Mannin kicked the PAT. Golden Eagle fans enjoyed the homecoming win.
The strong defensive effort against the Rangers began at the beginning of the contest when the Eagles forced a fumble on Park’s first possession of the game. The fumble gave Fergus possession of the ball at the Park 37-yard line. On the first play on offense, Fry scooted around the right side and scampered into the end zone for a Fergus TD. Although the PAT kick was blocked, Fergus held a 6-0 lead just 52 seconds into the contest.
Park moved the ball rather well on its next possession. The Rangers had a first-and-10 on the Fergus 15-yard line, but on third-and-22, Eric Knox picked off a Rydell Floyd pass to end the Ranger threat.
Neither team was able to mount an offensive threat throughout the rest of the first quarter.
Fergus’s second score of the game came at the midway point of the second period when quarterback Mitchell Norslein snuck the ball over the goal line from one yard out. Again the PAT was no good for the Eagles.
A short kick on the ensuing kickoff was recovered by the Eagles at the Park 40-yard line. A Norslien pass to Eric Knox and a run by Norslien gave Fergus a first down at the Park 24-yard line. On a fourth-down play, a Norslien pass was intercepted by the Rangers in the end zone.
On first and 10 from the Park 20-yard line, the Ranger quarterback was sacked by Wyatt Blythe for a loss of 12 yards. In memory of his brother Ethan, Blythe wore his brother’s number 48 jersey during the contest. Ethan died last spring while attending college at Montana State University-Northern. On fourth down a rugby-style punt was short giving the Eagles a first down on the Park 31-yard line. On second down, Wesley Jameson raced the 31 yards for another Eagle score. A Norslien pass to Fry on the PAT gave Fergus a 20-0 lead with 4:28 left in the first half.
On Park’s next possession, the Eagles blocked a Ranger punt to take possession of the ball at the Park 22-yard line. A Norslien pass to Knox gave Fergus first-and-goal at the six-yard line. On third down, Norslien connected with Fry from six yards out. A Norslien pass to Jameson put the Eagles up 29-0 with 1:12 left in the half.
Park began the second half with an onside kick, but the alert Fergus receiving team covered the ball. The Eagles lost a golden opportunity to score on this possession when Park recovered the fumble on a bad snap to Norslien. Again, the Fergus defense held tough, not allowing the Rangers to gain a first down.
After the two teams traded possessions, Fry returned the Park punt for the final score of the game.
“We are going to take what teams give us,” said Fergus Coach Vic Feller, commenting on the 12 pass attempts by Norslien, as compared to 36 running plays by the Eagles. “Last week in Glendive we needed to pass more because they put eight people in the box. I would like to be as close to 50-50 at the end of every game.”
Norslien completed six of his 12 passes for 73 yards, but carried the ball 12 times for 76 yards. The ground attack was strong for the Eagles throughout the contest. Jameson, a sophomore, had a break out game offensively, carrying the ball nine times for 117 yards, while Fry had 12 carries for 95 yards. The Fergus rushing attack netted 298 yards on the ground. Knox was the leading receiver for Fergus. He caught three passes for 47 yards.
The Eagles were strong in every part of the game against the Rangers. On defense, 21 Eagles recorded tackles. The leaders for Fergus were Thomas Ayers and Cole Ayers with seven each. Bridger Grover and Blythe added six each. Blythe recorded two quarterback sacks, while Thomas Ayers and Nick Sweeney each added one. Eban Crook and Knox each had interceptions, while Cody Henderson and Sam Butcher had a fumble recovery each.
The Eagles excelled also on special teams. Matthew Welsh punted the ball twice and averaged 36 yards/punt. Grover had one punt return of 25 yards, while Fry scored on a 65-yard punt return in the third quarter. Mannin was one for two on PATs.
Coach Feller said depth has been a key for the Eagles so far this season.
“We have had a chance to   rest some starters this year and that does help,” he said. “We feel we are at least two deep at almost every position.”

Eagles face tough test against Panthers
The Golden Eagles will face a much tougher opponent this weekend when they travel to Belgrade to take on the Panthers on Friday night.
“Belgrade will be a tough test for us,” said Feller. “Scores against other teams that we both have played are quite similar. I look for them to put eight in the box against us, so we will have to throw to get some people out and play honest. They like to run the ball, and right now defensively we have played the run extremely well.”
It will be the first conference game for Belgrade. In other conference action last week, Havre shut down Browning, 47-0.



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