FARGO, N.D. -- "Poetry in motion" is one of those overused cliches, unless you apply it to the Pillager Huskies football team, which Friday clinched the first state football tournament berth in school history.
The Huskies did it with an overwhelming 19-15 upset of the fifth-ranked Bertha-Hewitt Bears in the Section 4A championship game at the Fargodome.
It wasn't so much that the Huskies, winners of their last six games, beat the Bears as it was the way Pillager did it.
Beth Plotz (left) and Tami Bethel enjoyed the Pillager Huskies' winning touchdown. Bethel is the sister of Pillager running backs Steve and Robert.
Trailing 15-12 with 7:59 remaining, Pillager recovered a Bears fumble at the Huskies' 17-yard line.
After somewhat abandoning its bread-and-butter wishbone offense, Pillager went back to its power running game by rumbling, tumbling and stumbling all the way to the Bears' 25.
"That fumble was huge," said Pillager coach Pete Bothun. "We just told the kids that this is our chance. We're going to take time off the clock and we're going to run our game.
Pillager's Eric Shamp (58), Tony Szczodroski and Adam Brown reacted to their 19-15 upset of Bertha-Hewitt as the Bears looked on from the sidelines.
"The guys up in the booth were telling me the option was there. I had gotten away from it. Everyone was yelling in my ears telling me we should do this.
"(Quarterback) Lee (Roberts) read it perfect and it worked."
Then Bothun decided to check to see if the Bears' defense was cheating on the run, which it was.
Pillager sophomore defensive back Robert Bethel (left) and junior defensive back Jeff Pace (1) teamed up to bring down Bertha-Hewitt running back Dustin Switters.
With 2:23 remaining, Roberts dropped back and just before he got hit fired the ball to a streaking Adam Brown for the winning touchdown.
"I really didn't see him catch it because I was looking up at the lights," said Roberts. "I saw him break past the linebacker and I just let it fly. I figured he'd have the breakaway speed and he caught it. All I heard was cheering."
The passing was explosive early as it helped the Huskies build a quick 12-0 lead in the second quarter.
Pillager junior running back Adam Brown (left) stood his ground as it took two Bertha-Hewitt players to tackle him. Brown caught four passes for 84 yards.
The Huskies' first touchdown was much like their last as Roberts found his favorite receiver, Brown, again for a 37-yard score. Jeff Pace found the end zone in the second quarter off a one-yard run.
After a stellar first half the Huskies' offense stalled. In the third quarter Pillager had three series in which it ran three plays and punted. The Huskies were penalized four times for 35 yards and recorded only one first down.
Meanwhile, Bertha-Hewitt's offense was running in fifth-gear. On their fourth possession, which started at the Bears' 32, Bertha-Hewitt ran off four plays before Craig Weber darted for a 40-yard touchdown run to give the Bears a 15-12 lead.
It looked as if they were going to add more points as the Bears were driving all the way to the Pillager 17 before fumbling the ball away.
"My emotions have run the gamut," said Bothun. "I'm so proud of these kids. They came out fired up and scored two. Then Bertha comes back like we knew Bertha was going to do. We found something inside ourselves and we played our brand of football.
"They knew what we were going to do and we beat them. Champions win games in the fourth quarter and that's what the kids did. They all stepped up to the plate. They were just fantastic."
Pillager rushed for 147 yards and Roberts passed for 114. Eighty-four of those were to Brown who caught four passes.
Defensively, Pillager limited the Bears to just 162 yards of total offense. The Bears didn't get a first down until their second drive in the second quarter.
"We knew we could play with them," said Roberts. "The first time we played them we moved the ball and we should have scored a couple of times. They just kept us out of the end zone.
"Today, we played a little bit better defense than we did last game.
"This is a lot better team than last year when we were 1-8," added Roberts. "This is a heck of an improvement. The guys just played hard and practiced hard every week. I guess this is the kind of reward you get."
Game in figures
Pillager 6 6 0 7 -- 19
Bertha-Hewitt 0 7 8 0 -- 15
P - Adam Brown 37 pass from Lee Roberts (run failed) 3:01
P - Jeff Pace 1 run (run failed) 9:54
BH - Derek Dahms 30 pass from Darrin Kuhnke (Jason Rurup kick) 2:44
BH - Craig Weber 40 run (Dave Voeltz pass from Trent Anderson) 45.0
P - Brown 23 pass from Roberts (Steve Bethel kick) 2:18
First downs - BH 10, P 15
Rushes-yards - BH 27-113, P43-147
Passing-yards - BH 4-18-49, P 7-14-1-114
Total yards - BH 162, P 261
Fumbles - BH 2-2, P 2-0
Penalties - BH 9-80, P 9-75
Rushing - P Robert Bethel 8-24, Steve Bethel 11-59, Steve Szczodroski 6-30, Lee Roberts 9-24, Jeff Pace 4-10, Adam Brown 5-0
Passing - Roberts 7-14-1-114
Receiving - Brown 4-84, S. Bethel 1-7, Mitch Wyffels 1-8, Eric Pook 1-15
Record - P 8-3. Next game - Pillager hosts Fertile-Beltrami 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, in Class A state quarterfinals.
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