Following Brandon-Evansville's 34-8 win over Verndale, head coach Tim Pattrin took a deep breath and said, "It was a long time coming."
Over the last four years, the Verndale (8-2) has been B-E's (9-1) Achilles heel. Coming into Saturday afternoon's game, the Chargers had lost to the Pirates seven times in the last four years. Three of those games ended B-E's season in the playoffs.
"We've had good teams that haven't been able to beat these guys," Pattrin said. "Our guys took it as a badge of honor to come out here and beat Verndale. They played a heck of a game today."
The second-seeded Chargers hosted the third-seeded Pirates after a coin-flip decision last Thursday. Both teams were tied in the QRF rankings according to Minnesota-Scores.
Junior running back Cade Carlson broke off a 55-yard touchdown run on the third play of the game to give the Chargers an 8-0 lead. Like they've done so many times in previous years, the Pirates answered with a touchdown of their own to tie the game.
On B-E's next drive, quarterback Keagan Schiele led the offense into the red zone. On second-and-long, Carlson crossed the goal line again to give the Chargers the lead.
"You have no idea how huge our offensive line has been," Carlson said. "When people go to buy a jersey, they look for the receivers, the running backs or the quarterback. Everybody should start recognizing linemen. They are the heart and soul of a team. We could not win like this without them."
B-E had several chances to move the chains in the second quarter, but seven offensive penalties stopped its progress. The uncharacteristic nature of the Charger offense felt like it may be their undoing. Unable to score, B-E went into halftime with a 16-8 lead.
"That was a rarity for us. Penalties haven't been an issue," Pattrin said. "The guys were all fired up, and it led to some miscues. They made some mistakes, but they learned from it. The came out in the second half and cleaned things up."
Senior tailback Marshall Riedel had himself an impressive second half. After scoring his first touchdown of the game, he got the ball near the goal line again. A strong stiff-arm shook off a defender before he found the end zone for a second time.
"I was trying to follow up what Cade does," Riedel said. "That was my first stiff-arm of the year. Man, that felt pretty good."
Almost every time a B-E ball carrier got the call, it took several defenders to bring them to the ground. Breaking tackles and keeping plays alive can be attributed to the work ethic put in practice and the weight room.
"It something we work on every day," Riedel said. "We may not like it in practice because it's not easy, but come game time it's important. It's the little things that our coaches have us focus on that make a difference. It's hard to bring us down because of the work we put in."
Carlson put the game on ice with his third touchdown of the game midway through the fourth quarter. The win sends the Chargers back to the Fargodome for the first time since 2017.
"It feels amazing," senior Riedel said. "They ended our season the last couple of years. It finally feels good to end theirs. This group of guys is amazing. Every day we come to practice and work hard. These games are a lot of fun."
B-E has bounced back from the 16-6 Hancock (10-0) loss in the final game of the regular season the way it hoped. Now they get a shot at a rematch in the biggest game of the season so far.
"The guys looked at that game as a bump in the road," Pattrin said. "Every year, when we have something happen, or we lose a big game, they show up on Monday ready to learn from their mistakes and move on. That's what this team has done, and they've gotten better because of it."
The biggest challenge the Chargers will face is trying to slow down the Owls' explosive offense.
"It's hard to simulate how fast they are," Pattrin said. "Now that we've seen them, our guys know what to expect. We have an idea of the things that they're going to do. This week is about adjusting and learning from that last game."
The Section 4 9-man championship game is set for Friday at 12:30 p.m. in Fargo. However, this isn't the end goal for the Chargers. It's a step in the right direction.
"We still got things to polish before Friday," Carlson said. "The season doesn't stop after the Fargodome. Why stop short of how far this team could actually go?"
VERNDALE 8 0 0 0 - 8
B-E 16 0 12 6 - 34
SCORING- FIRST QUARTER- B-E- Cade Carlson 55-yard TD run (Carlson two-point conversion run good) 10:59; Verndale- Jake Ismil 5-yard TD run (Ismil two-point conversion good) 7:10; B-E- Carlson 16-yard TD run (Keagan Schiele two-point conversion good) 2:45;
THIRD QUARTER- B-E- Marshall Riedel 5-yard TD run (two-point conversion no good) 4:47; B-E- Riedel 6-yard TD run (two-point conversion no good) 2:03;
FOURTH QUARTER- B-E Carlson 7-yard TD run (two-point conversion no good) 7:00