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By Steve Thomas, Published August 29 2009

High school football: Turnovers burn West Fargo in loss

MANDAN, N.D. – Putting up 449 yards of total offense can cover up for a lot of gridiron mischief. But not seven turnovers.

Mandan made the most of seven takeaways and some opportunistic offense to down West Fargo 36-28 Friday night at Faris Field. Both teams were playing their season football opener.

Mandan broke a 28-28 tie in a fashion befitting the game – utilizing a West Fargo turnover to sink the visiting Packers.

West Fargo came back from a 28-6 deficit to knot the game at 28. After forcing a Mandan punt, the Packers were in business on their own 37-yard line with 2:06 to play.

Then quarterback Bryce Jorgenson’s option pitch to running back Jacob Kiefer fell to the turf and Mandan linebacker Mark Zinke recovered with 1:57 left.

A pass interference call against Kiefer on third-and-seven moved the ball to the West Fargo 15. On the next play, Mandan quarterback Trey Nadeau crafted a perfect pass play with wideout Austin Riopelle.

Riopelle slipped behind Kiefer in the left corner of the end zone and Nadeau lofted the ball to his receiver just inside the end line.

That put the Braves ahead 34-28. Nadeau’s conversion run made it 36-28 with :58 to play.

West Fargo’s explosive offense moved the ball 49 yards in six plays before the bell tolled. Kiefer caught a slant pass and turned it into a 38-yard gain before being pushed out at the Mandan 16 with time expired.

Nadeau, a junior playing his first game at quarterback, said the Braves weren’t working over Kiefer in the final series as much as taking advantage of Riopelle.

“Austin Riopelle had a height advantage on that side and great speed,” Nadeau said. “When they single-covered him we were going to him all day.”

For Riopelle, a second-year varsity player, winning the opener in comeback style was a perfect antidote to last year’s 2-7 season.

“This is huge, to start out like that,” Riopelle said. “... Now we’ve got to build off this and keep it going.”

While Riopelle was brilliant with six catches for 123 yards and two scores, he paid homage to Mandan’s defense.

“The defense won the game for us,” he said.

WF 0 6 8 14–28

Mandan 12 8 8 8–36

M —Binstock 9 run (pass failed).

M —Riopelle 10 pass from Nadeau (run failed)

WF —Kiefer 1 run (kick blocked)

M —Muth 2 pass from Nadeau (Binstock run)

M — Nadeau 4 run (Binstock run), 6:20.

WF — Jorgenson 3 run (Jorgenson run)

WF — Kiefer 17 run (Scott Salter kick)

WF — Kiefer 5 run (Salter kick)

M — Riopelle 15 pass from Nadeau (Nadeau run)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: WF —Jorgenson 13-151, Kiefer 21-129, Stanczyk 2-8, Lehmann 1-minus 1. M —Binstock 25-105, Westby 11-15, Neubauer 6-33, Nadeau 3-7, Skytland 4-5, Muth 1-minus 13.

PASSING: WF — Jorgenson 13-24-2, 162 yards. M —Nadeau 11-20-0, 167.

RECEIVING: WF —Schwartz 9-104, Nelson 1-11, Bucholz 1-1, Neer 1-8, Kiefer 1-38. M — Riopelle 6-123, Muth 5-44.