BY AARON PATTERSON
A cool 46 degrees probably didn’t have Bismarck-Henning head coach Mark Dodd and defensive coordinator Cory Max excited about getting soaked with water on Friday night. But aside from a few shivers and last-second efforts to make an escape, they seemed to enjoy getting multiple water coolers dumped on them following the Blue Devils’ 42-0 win over the Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman Buffaloes.
The win gave the Blue Devils their first-ever Vermilion Valley Conference title, and with a forfeit expected next week from Schlarman Academy, completed Bismarck-Henning’s first undefeated season since 1985.
The eventual 10 wins marks the most in program history, and represents the progress the Blue Devils have made since Dodd’s first year with the program in 2007 when his team finished 4-5.
“I think it’s just a testament to the great kids we have in our community and in our school,” Dodd said. “When we came here, it was pretty rough. It was pretty hard. We talked about that this morning in our team breakfast this morning. We mentioned those kids that started here — Murad Abbed and Joe Aquino, Dakota Patton and Logan Patton, and Luke Thornsbrough and Cody Longest, and these kids that weren’t really surrounded by the talent that this group has. They worked hard to really try to get us going. I think this is a nice tribute to all the kids that played before us.”
The Blue Devils were convinced last year could have been their year to win the conference and finish with a perfect record, but a Week 5 loss to Salt Fork ruined the opportunity. Simply clearing that hurdle this year not only gave them momentum to finish the season strong, but made this year’s accomplishment a little more satisfying.
“I think that’s what helps make it a little sweeter, too, because we did come up short last year,” Dodd said. “We thought we were there and we weren’t. We learned a hard lesson, and I think that’s added to this. I think this feels real good, and I want our kids to feel really good about this for a couple days. I think our coaches should feel good, too.”
Nearly everything went the Blue Devils way en route to the history-making win, and it began when they recovered the opening kick which bounced over the heads of the Buffaloes, and was recovered by Patrick Ganley. It might have been fitting that the ball found the hands of the junior running back, as he also reached a milestone.
Ganley rushed for a season-high 216 yards on 20 carries and scored the Blue Devils’ first three touchdowns. All he needed, though, was 100 to reach 1,000 for the season.
“Coming from JV to varsity is the biggest jump I’ve ever had in football,” Ganley said. “Having the line that we have, they block perfect and give me holes to run through.”
With fullback Kevin Allen — who ran for 146 yards — taking on much of the load in the running game, Ganley wasn’t sure so sure he would be able to accumulate so many yards.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “He’s pretty much the powerhouse of the team. He runs up the middle and runs everybody over. Fortunately, I’ve been able to succeed and get as many yards as I could.”
Ganley’s final touchdown of the evening came on a 42-yard run with 5:40 remaining in the first half. Receiver Dustyn Ingram, who caught three passes for 63 yards, followed with two touchdowns of his own on tosses of 33 and 21 yards from quarterback Caleb Bergman. Ingram also had an interception in the first half, but it was ultimately called back for a defensive penalty.
Bismarck-Henning (8-0 overall, 5-0 in the VVC) was penalized 10 times for 85 yards, lost three fumbles, and Bergman threw his first interception of the season.
The Buffaloes had multiple opportunities but still couldn’t find the end zone. In all, GRFC was held to 47 yards of total offense.
“They were just more physical than us up front,’ GRFC coach Josh Cavanaugh said. “Size-wise, they are bigger. Their backs are big. They did a nice job of staying within their scheme. I was proud of the way our defense played at times, forcing some turnovers and fourth-down stops, which was good. But they just manhandled us up front. If you lose in the trenches, you lose. There’s not a whole lot you can do about that.”
The Buffaloes (5-3, 3-2) have one more opportunity to secure a sixth win and guarantee a playoff spot when they take on the Westville Tigers in Friday’s Coal Bucket game.
The Blue Devils will accept a forfeit from Schlarman Academy next week and begin preparing for their fourth consecutive trip to the playoffs. But first, they will take time to enjoy a history-making season.
“This win right here brought us to be VVC champs,” Bismarck-Henning senior Luke Horton said. “It’s not just for us, it’s for all the guys that played last year and the year before, and all the kids that maybe couldn’t have played on a better team like us.
We knew that last year we were a good team. We just couldn’t get everything together. This year we just focused on what needed to be done and got the job done.”