Velva/Drake-Anamoose/Garrison tops Central Cass in 11B title game

By Tom Mix
NDHSAA Media Specialist

FARGO – It’s a perfect 10 out of 10 for Velva’s football program at NDHSAA Dakota Bowl football championship games.

The Aggies are a perennial prep football power in the state and in the NDHSAA’s Dakota Bowl era of championship football games, Velva remained perfect.

Ten times the Aggies have qualified for the Dakota Bowl and 10 times they’ve left with a state championship trophy.

The Aggies’ 10th state title at a Dakota Bowl came Friday, November 11 at the FARGODOME. Velva/Drake-Anamoose/Garrison defeated Central Cass 22-20 in the NDHSAA Division 11B football state title game.  

Leading the way for the Aggies was sophomore quarterback Ben Schepp, who was 17 of 24 passing for 228 yards and a touchdown. Schepp also led the Aggies in rushing with 80 yards on 22 carries and a pair of touchdowns.

Velva, a co-op program that also includes Drake-Anamoose and Garrison, got on the board first with three minutes, 17 seconds remaining in the first quarter when Schepp scored on a one-yard keeper. A successful two-point conversion run by senior Payton Bodine gave the Aggies a 8-0 lead.

Central Cass answered in the second quarter with a 18-yard connection between junior quarterback Brayden Mitchell and senior wide receiver Cooper Johnson. The Squirrels kicked the extra point to narrow the gap to 8-7.

The Squirrels continued to roll in the second quarter as junior running back Isaac Wisnewski rushed for a 5-yard touchdown. Once again the Squirrels were successful with an extra point kick to take a 14-8 lead.

Velva-Drake-Anamoose/Garrison regained the lead with 3 minutes, five seconds left in the first half when Schepp found sophomore tight end Reggie Bruner in the flat for a pass that Bruner turned into a 78-yard touchdown play. Schepp successfully ran in the two-point conversion to put the Aggies up 16-14 at halftime.

Less than two minutes out of the break, Central Cass scored when Mitchell found junior Peyton Lemar for a 1-yard touchdown pass. A two-point run by Mitchell fell short of the goal line and the Squirrels held a 20-16 lead they would hold most of the second half.

When the fourth quarter began, Central Cass still led 20-16 and were driving in Aggies territory. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Mitchell attempted a rush on a 3rd and 2 from the Velva 45. Mitchell rushed for 10 yards, but before he could be brought to the ground Schepp, also playing defensive back for the Aggies, jarred the ball out of Mitchell’s possession on the tackle attempt. The fumbled ball ended up being recovered by Schepp at the 35 yard line where the eventual game-winning drive for the Aggies would start.

The Aggies rattled off a 13-play, 65 yard drive that ate up six minutes, three seconds of clock punctuated by a one yard keeper by Schepp. Velva/D-A/G’s two-point pass attempt failed, giving the Aggies a 22-20 lead with 5:57 left to play.

Central Cass put together a lengthy drive of their own, but it never bore fruit as the Squirrels would see a 12-play, 60 yard drive come up just 1-yard short of getting the go-ahead score. The Squirrels’ started the drive on their own 39 yard line. With 1:25 left to play, Mitchell connected with Lemar on 3rd-and-goal from the Velva 3-yard line, but Lemar was just short of the goal line, setting up a fourth-and-goal from the Velva 1-yard line. With junior place kicker Carter Vrchota 2-for-2 on extra points during the game the Squirrels had a decision – line up for a play or a field goal. Central Cass sent Mitchell and the offense out for the fourth down attempt.

Mitchell scrambled and was brought down at the Velva 3-yard line for a loss of two yards and turnover on downs.

Velva backed up to their own endzone, ran three plays, but was forced to punt. With only seconds left, Central Cass was unable to get back to the red zone and the Aggies sealed up a perfect season 13-0. Velva-Drake-Anamoose/Garrison head coach Larry Sandy has coached the Aggies to all 10 of the team’s state championships won at a Dakota Bowl and announced earlier this fall that this would be his final year of head coaching in football. Sandy ends his 33-year tenure as the Aggies head coach with a 296-83 record.   

The Squirrels ended the season 9-3 in the program's first state championship game appearance since 1980.       

BOX SCORE: VELVA/DRAKE-ANAMOOSE/GARRISON 22, CENTRAL CASS 20

2022 NDHSAA DIVISION 11B FOOTBALL STATE PLAYOFFS BRACKET

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