FARGO — As the Griggs/Barnes County football team walked off the field at Shanley High School's Cichy Stadium Tuesday, the looks on the faces of the players nearly said it all.
As the Titans gave each other a hug and a handshake, seniors seemed to be holding back tears following a 47-15 loss to the Deacons in their final game of the season.
It was a loss that, though large on the scoreboard, left second-year coach Davy Zinke plenty happy as the team continued its improvements this season.
All night long, the Titans had success running the ball against the defending state runner-up, and even neutralized the Deacons' run attack.
"I feel good because we drove the ball on them," Zinke said. "They had to try to stop us, and we drove the ball, and it just showed me we can do it on anybody, and they couldn't go physical with us, because they had to throw."
But, it was the throws that hurt the Titans most as Shanley quarterback Chase Montplaisir found major holes in the GBC backfield and used them for what they were worth.
Montplasir threw for 298 yards, connecting on six of 10 attempts. Four of those completions were touchdowns and all four were on plays of at least 59 yards.
And that was just the first half.
Montplasir eventually finished the game with 343 passing yards, connecting on eight of 12 attempts after being replaced in the third quarter by Jake Erholtz.
"They beat us on long passes all the time," Zinke said. "We tried to adjust, but we just didn't pick it up, and that's the difference in the the game."
The first long ball came on Shanley's first drive.
The Deacons tried running the ball, but were stopped on the first two downs. On third-and-eight, Montplaisir hit Wyatt Leier with a 23-yarder for the first down at their own 32. The next play, he hit Dan Arnold for a 68-yard pass that went all the way into the endzone and left the Deacons with a 7-0 lead following the point-after kick.
After a short drive that ended in a punt, Shanley got the ball back with four and a half minutes left in the quarter.
On the opening play of the drive, Montplaisir hit Arnold again, this time for 62 yards, though Shanley missed the point-after kick to make it 13-0.
It wasn't until the next drive that the Titans stopped Shanley without a touchdown.
GBC even made the score close, starting a drive late in the first quarter, and finding passing success late in the second when Tim Erker hit Jacoby Kramlich on a screen pass that went 32 yards for a touchdown, making it 13-7 after a kick by Brad Clemens.
When Shanley got the ball back, though, they got the lead back out, moving the ball on a 26-yard pass from Montplaisir to Tre Fort, and eventually scoring on a short run by Danny Stasch.
The Deacons had two more touchdowns in the second quarter, on passes of 59 and 60 yards to Kelvin Caga and Arnold, which left the Titans down 34-7 at halftime.
Shanley then had the opening two touchdowns in the second half, scoring on runs by Josh Berg and Peter Simon to go up 47-7. GBC scored its final touchdown on a four-yard run by Pete Fehr with 3:34 left in the game. A conversion run by Conner Eberle made it 47-15.
The team finishes the season 1-6 in the AA East, 1-8 overall, with many of the season's early losses coming on narrow margins.
Despite that, Zinke said his team never quit.
"They battled," he said. "They never stopped, they just kept battling."
The Titans will lose numerous seniors from the team, including Jamie Eggermont, Brad Clemens, Jacoby Kramlich, Fehr, Derek Fletcher, Matt Peterson, Trevor Anderson and Kody Wagner.
Zinke credited the seniors for leading with a strong work ethic and picking up on his system despite changing coaches numerous times in the last several years.
"Nobody stayed long enough to make sure they were doing well, so they went through a lot of different things, but they still played hard," Zinke said. "It takes a lot of guts."