BY AARON PATTERSON email@example.com
---- — BISMARCK — Like hitting a walk-off home run or making a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer, kickers look forward to the opportunity to come up big in clutch situations.
It’s what they do. They will sometimes sit on the sideline an entire game waiting for the opportunity to kick a field goal at a crucial moment in the game to help their team win.
Bismarck-Henning sophomore Dalton Duncan had looked forward to that opportunity, but with the frequency the Blue Devils’ offense has put up points this season, the only question was how intense the situation might be when he got the opportunity.
He found out last Friday night against the Milford/Cissna Park Bearcats when he was called upon by coach Mark Dodd to win the game for his team.
Down 15-14 with 17 seconds left in the game, Duncan went onto the field and kicked a 30-yard field goal to secure a 17-15 win, keep the Blue Devils’ record perfect, and record the program’s 16th consecutive regular-season win.
“I never hesitated,” Dodd said. “He’s been doing it all summer for us, and I see him do it everyday.
“He takes it seriously, and he really works hard at it. He’s still learning, but he came in to us having gone to a kicking camp. He really learned how to do it, and he has the soccer experience behind him. It’s pretty natural for him.”
As a member of the Blue Devils soccer team, Duncan had wanted to play football since he was in eighth grade. During his freshman year, he was in Dodd’s weight training class, and the two discussed the entire winter about the possibility of playing two sports. Duncan attended a kicking camp over the summer in Naperville, and upon returning, he impressed Dodd with the progress he had made.
Duncan said that during practice, he had been making 40-yard field goals, so with a good snap and hold, he had complete confidence. It was just a matter of getting the opportunity.
Down by one, the Blue Devils gained possession at their own 10 yard line with under three minutes to play and two time outs.
Sophomore quarterback Dylan Allen navigated the Blue Devils down the field, with the help of a 45-yard run by Patrick Ganley, converting on a third down with a completion to Braedon Lappin-Pratt, and then the final seven-yard completion to Dustyn Ingram.
Ingram stepped out of bounds to stop the clock, but that left Bismarck-Henning with a fourth-and-2 situation and no time outs.
Dodd didn’t have to think twice about giving his new kicker the chance to win the game.
“I kind of figured he would,” Duncan said. “He told me once we got the ball that he was going to try to get as close as we could, and then have me kick.
“I knew I could make it because I had been practicing and making 40-yard field goals. I was just nervous that I wouldn’t get a good snap or a good hold, but once I hit it firm, I knew I had it.”
Sophomore Dylan Dodd snapped the ball to Ingram, Ingram made the hold, and Duncan made his first-ever field goal attempt.
“I just blocked out everything,” Duncan said. “All I could hear was my holder. That’s all I heard.”
With his first game-winning field goal behind him, Duncan and Mark Dodd have full confidence the next time his number is called.
“Now he’s done it, now he’s actually won a game doing it,” Mark Dodd said. “I would think he would have all of the confidence in the world, and now we know he can do it. All those what-ifs are answered at this point.
“There have been a lot of years when I would have given anything to have a solid kicker that can get us points when we need it. Hopefully we have that with Dalton.”
Duncan’s kick accounted for Bismarck-Henning’s only points in the second half. The Blue Devils led 14-0 at halftime, but that’s when Mark Dodd said momentum began shifting to the Bearcats’ sideline.
The Blue Devils fumbled a total of four times in the game and lost possession all four times. MCP scored 15 unanswered points, all in the fourth quarter before Bismarck-Henning’s game-winning drive.
“We really were in control of the game in the first half up 14-0,” Mark Dodd said. “In the third quarter, we had first-and-goal on the 4, and on second down we fumbled the pitch, and that really changed the game. From then on out, Milford just really whipped our butts until the last couple of minutes. We turned the ball over; we fumbled the ball like (four) times and it just wasn’t very pretty in the second half.”
Ganley had another stellar performance, rushing for 232 yards on 25 carries and scored two touchdowns.
The Blue Devils will now attempt to make it 17 consecutive regular season wins when they host the winless Westville Tigers on Friday. After suffering its first loss, MCP will try to rebound against the undefeated Salt Fork Storm.