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Of all the games a football team plays each year, there is rarely a non-playoff matchup that draws a crowd better than a homecoming game. But in the same vein, all excitement of the weekend comes with the possibility of distracting players.
But in Friday night's 40-13 homecoming win over Lisbon, the Valley City High School football team showed that it was all business.
"I'm very proud of the guys because sometimes homecoming is a curse, in a sense, because of all the non-routine things that come along with it " VCHS coach Scott Roehrich said. "I give our guys a lot of credit for being able to focus through it and realize that Friday night at 7, we've got a football game."
It was a game that already has impacted the Class AA East Region standings.
The Broncos and Hi-Liners were tied for fourth place entering the game, but the winner got a boost following Central Cass's 32-20 win over No. 1 Fargo Shanley 32-20 Friday.
The Hi-Liners are now one of four teams, with Shanley, Wahpeton, and Grafton, tied for first place with three weeks left to play. The Hi-Liners' remaining schedule includes a trip to Shanley Friday, followed by games with Central Cass and Grafton on Oct. 11 and 16.
Friday's win over the Broncos was a rematch of a game last year, in which the Hi-Liners lost 42-12 in Lisbon.
Roehrich said he reminded players of the loss going into the game.
"I really thought last year we weren't ready to play during that game," he said. "I think our kids came out (this year) and they remembered that and they learned from it and realized it was important for us to get out to a good start."
The Hi-Liners did start strong.
Though they allowed Lisbon to get the ball into their territory on the opening drive, the Broncos only got eight yards in before punting.
When Valley City got the ball back, they worked the clock and got runs from Anthony Olstad and Shane Undem to get the ball into Lisbon's half of the field. Once they were there, Undem took the ball on a fourth-and-three for a 43-yard touchdown run. A two-point run by Olstad made it 8-0 with 3:53 in the first quarter.
When Lisbon got the ball back, quarterback Dylan Urbach showed his dual threat abilities, hitting long passes, but also running when he needed to. He finished off the drive with an 11 yard pass to Tyler Mittleider. A kick by Nathan Mangin made it 8-7 with six seconds left in the first.
Valley City's offense continued on the next drive, which started with a few runs before quarterback Austin Svenningsen hit Tayler Lentz with a 15-yard pass. The drive continued as the Hi-Liners line kept opening holes for runners. The drive ended in the endzone on eight-yard run by homecoming king Brandon Breckheimer with 5:02 left in the half to make it 14-7.
Lisbon's following drive ended early on an interception by Jory White, but the Broncos quickly got the ball back when Undem gave up a fumble.
The teams went into halftime with a 14-7 Valley City lead.
The Hi-Liners received the ball at their own 41, then moved quickly as Undem put together runs of 4 and 49 yards to get to the Lisbon 7. Undem had a six-yard run to put the Hi-Liners in striking distance before Olstad put the ball in on a one-yard run to make it 20-7.
An interception by Kyle Knutson quickly got the ball back to Valley City, who got a 30-yard run by Dustin Lindgren and a conversion by Undem to make it 28-7.
Lisbon scored a touchdown on the next drive, which Olstad matched early in the fourth quarter, scoring a touchdown and converting the run to make it 36-13.
Valley City scored its final four points on safeties in the closing minutes.