VERNDALE -- Even when things didn't go right for the Verndale Pirates they did.
A mix up during the coin flip resulted in top-seeded Verndale kicking off to start both halves of Saturday's Section 4, Nine-Man football semifinal against the fifth-seeded Underwood Rockets.
Both times, however, Verndale stuffed Underwood's opening drive, started its possession with good field position and scored. The end result was a 45-20 victory.
"We screwed up on the coin toss," said Verndale coach Mike Mahlen. "I told the players that if we won the toss we wanted to defer. If they won the toss we wanted the north end. Well, we won the toss and took the north end.
"But it worked out. We kicked off and got them down at the 10 yard line and stopped them and then they had a bad punt. That worked out excellent for us."
Verndale 45, Underwood 29
Key: senior Tyler Fisher rushed for 125 yards and two scores
Overall: V 9-1, U 4-6
Next game: Verndale vs. Bertha-Hewitt in Section 4, Nine-Man Championship at Fargodome in Fargo, 3 p.m. Friday.
Verndale's first score came from Tyler Fisher's 2-yard plunge at 9:41 in the first quarter. The drive started at Underwood's 10-yard line because of a punt that sailed for no yards. Four plays later and Fisher was celebrating the first of his two scores.
His second came on Verndale's third possession. The senior broke through the heart of Underwood's line and rumbled 41 yards for a 14-0 advantage. Fisher finished with 125 yards on 18 carries, while sitting out most of the second half.
"The second quarter was key for us because we had to go into the wind," said Mahlen. "I thought our offensive line did an excellent job of blocking and our backs did a good job of blocking for each other. Tyler had a couple of nice, key runs for us."
Isaac Johnson gave Verndale a 24-0 halftime advantage on a 1-yard run.
In the second half the senior quarterback found Andy Bramer for a 5-yard touchdown pass. Then on the Pirates next possession he connected with Bramer again for a 41-yard score.
The two touchdown passes were Johnson's only attempts.
"The first score was a simple bootleg," said Bramer. "We faked to the back, because we've been running all day long and hadn't passed yet. We just faked it to Tyler because most teams seemed to key Tyler so that left me wide open.
"On the second one, (Underwood) had all nine guys up in the box so they had nobody deep. When they do that we like to go deep on them."
The Pirates finished with 284 yards of total offense, but the Rockets bettered them with 290 yards on 63 plays. Underwood quarterback Mike Hamann was 9-of-19 passing for 132 yards. Five times the sophomore kept a Rocket drive alive with a pass completion on third or fourth down.
Unfortunately for Hamann, Josh Kern had a career day collecting 2 1/2. All of which ended Underwood drives.
"This is probably one of the best we've done defensively," said Bramer. "People seemed to just get in there and do what they had to do. We talked a lot better than we have in a long time. People just seemed to step it up."
The closest Underwood got to scoring in the first half was to the Verndale 30 yard line. There they lost the ball on downs.
"The big play they got was right away when we thought they were going to punt," said Mahlen. "They threw right into the wind for about 40 yards. That was a great play by them, but I thought other than that our defense played well."
The Pirates will make their third straight section final appearance and fifth in six years.
"It's always nice to go down there," said Bramer. "We've been down there a few years in a row now. It's always nice to show people what we can do and even though we might not be the biggest team, we're still going to make it."
Underwood 0 0 6 14 -- 20
Verndale 8 16 14 7 -- 45
V-Tyler Fisher 2 run (Fisher run) 9:41
V-Fisher 41 run (Tom Adamietz run) 7:18
V-Isaac Johnson 1 run (Johnson run) 1:06
V-Andy Bramer 5 pass from Johnson (David Cannon kick) 6:33
U-Brian Jensen 29 run (pass failed) 3:06
V-Bramer 41 pass from Johnson (Cannon kick) 2:24
U-Brady Mark 1 run (pass failed) 9:40
V-Casey Greer 3 run (Cannon kick) 3:14
U-Mark 2 run (Jensen run) 2:12
Rush att-yds -- V 45-230, U 44-158
Pass comp-att-int-yds -- V 2-2-0-46, U 9-19-0-132
Total offense -- V 47-284, U 63-290
Rushing -- V-Tyler Fisher 18-125, Tom Adamietz 14-61, Isaac Johnson 6-24, Casey Greer 5-20, Dan Adamietz 1-4; U-Derek Morse 9-37, Brian Jensen 19-94, Mike Hamann 4-(-22), Brady Mark 10-42, Brandon Lee 2-7
Passing -- V-Johnson 2-2-46; U-Hamann 9-19-132
Receiving -- V-Andy Bramer 2-46; Morse 5-74, Jensen 2-52, Tate Goeden 1-1, Lee 1-5
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
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