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Greg DeVillers / Forum Communications Co. , Published November 09 2012

Arnold leads Deacons to Class 2A state football title

GRAND FORKS – A year ago, Dan Arnold was playing high school football in Rockford, Ill. He knew nothing of North Dakota prep football in general, nor Fargo Shanley in particular.

Now he’s the offensive catalyst of the North Dakota Class 2A state champion Deacons.

Arnold caught a pair of touchdown passes from Chase Montplaisir on Friday, providing both the Shanley touchdowns as the Deacons defeated Grafton 14-8 in the Class 2A state title game of the Dakota Bowl. It was a turnaround from a year ago, when Grafton beat Shanley in the championship game.

“My dad got a job in West Fargo over the summer,” Arnold, a 6-foot-5 senior, said. “He learned that (Shanley) had won a few titles recently, so he thought it would be a good school for me.

“It was hard leaving my friends behind in Illinois. But this is one of the biggest things you can do.”

Arnold put the Deacons on the scoreboard in the first quarter when, sandwiched between two defenders, he reached up for a high pass at the 35, turned upfield and went in for a 59-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Shanley made it 14-0 with 6:53 remaining when Montplaisir went to Arnold for a 16-yard score.

“I’d take a transfer like Dan every year,” Shanley coach Rod Oksendahl said. “He’s very good. He made a miraculous catch on that first touchdown. It helps to be 6-5. On the second one, he made a great move to get open.”

Arnold finished with four catches, giving him 49 for more than 1,000 receiving yards on the season. Montplaisir was 10 of 18 for 178 passing yards. Danny Stasch balanced the Shanley offense with 105 rushing yards.

After Arnold’s second TD reception, Grafton quarterback Christian Lunde broke free for a 56-yard touchdown run on the Spoilers’ first offensive play, pulling Grafton within 14-8.

The Spoilers had one more possession, driving from their own 1-yard line to the Shanley 25. But, on fourth-and-3 with 1:13 remaining, Lunde was stripped of the ball, with Arnold recovering the fumble.

Turnovers were the story of the second half for Grafton. It had eight possessions in the final two quarters. In addition to Lunde’s touchdown run, one possession ended in a punt and the remaining six ended with turnovers. Grafton lost five fumbles and had one pass intercepted after halftime.

“We were a plus-13 in turnovers coming into this game,” Oksendahl said. “These kids are very aggressive. We get a lot of kids to the ball, and they’re ripping the ball away like they’re supposed to.

“We had seven sophomores out there on defense for a lot of the game. It’s a great class coming up.”

Lunde, who was named Class 2A senior player of the year, rushed for 160 yards and was 5-of-19 passing for 152 yards to spark Grafton’s offense. But the Spoilers couldn’t overcome their missed opportunities, which also included a first-half drive that ended on downs at the Shanley 5-yard line.

“We’ve actually been really good in the red zone,” Grafton coach Tom Maus said. “And every time we had momentum in the second half, it seemed like the ball wound up on the ground or in their (Deacons’) hands. You can’t turn the ball over against a good team like Shanley and expect to win. And late in the season, we’ve done a real good job of taking care of the ball.”

G 0 0 0 8– 8

FS 7 0 0 7–14

FS–Arnold 59 pass from Montplaisir (Strom kick)

FS–Arnold 16 pass from Montplaisir (Strom kick)

G–Lunde 56 run (Mendoza run)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: G, Lunde 25-160, Mendoza 4-28, Martinez 4-7, Contreras 1-3. FS, Stasch 30-105, Arnold 3-33, Simon 8-23, Caga 1-4, Berg 2-2, Montplaisir 5-(minus-13).

PASSING: G, Lunde 5-19-1 152 yards. FS, Montplaisir 10-18-1 178.

RECEIVING: G, Mendoza 2-67, Contreras 2-47, McMartin 1-38. FS, Arnold 4-87, Stasch 4-46, Caga 1-28, Simon 1-17.


DeVillers writes for the Grand Forks Herald