Habonimana Simon

Habonimana Simon leaps for the first of his two interceptions in North Dakota State College of Science’s 35-15 win.

After getting bounced in the first round last season, the second-year North Dakota State College of Science players were especially hungry to get back to the state championship game. Their determination showed in their Sunday, Nov. 5 semifinal game against the Central Lakes College Raiders. Down 15-7, it looked like it might be another game like NDSCS’ tight overtime win against CLC earlier in the year. Instead, the Cats exploded for the game’s final 28 points in a 35-15 victory.

“I’m really proud of all of our guys. We played with a lot of resolve,” NDSCS coach Eric Issendorf said. “We got off track a little in the first half, but we talked about controlling the things that we can control and taking care of what we needed to do. They got off the bus after halftime and did that.”

Just like in Science’s playoff opener, sophomore Kingston Myles got the offense started with a huge run on the first play. The shifty runner sliced through the defense and once he was in the open field nobody could catch up.

The 55-yard scoring rush was followed up by a Habonimana Simon interception on the Raiders’ first play from scrimmage. Central Lakes’ quarterback tossed it right to Simon and the second-year corner followed it up by hauling in another pick on a deep ball.

“Simon’s been one of our best players,” Issendorf said. “He mentioned to me that this is the first time he’s been out of the semifinals, so I know it meant a little bit more to him going back to high school.”

The defenses ruled most of the first half and Central Lakes got on the board with a 28-yard deep ball from Jake Franklin to Jordan Thompson. Following a blocked punt, Franklin found Zach Servertson on a fade for a 16-yard score. The home team failed to capitalize on both of the conversions, making it a 12-7 game at the half.

The rain forced another miscue by the Wildcat punt team, this time a high snap that was recovered by the Raiders, was turned into a field goal. It was the final points CLC would score in 2018.

“We’ve been messing around with this (weather) the last few weeks,” Issendorf said. “We’re fine wherever we’ve got to play. We’ll play in a parking lot if we have to.”

Grant Brown returned a kick to the 50 and after multiple Central Lakes penalties, Brown came up big again with a 14-yard TD catch from Max Race. The freshman quarterback tossed another scoring strike to Karlton Calvert III to give NDSCS the lead.

The next time the Cats got the ball back, Myles came up big for three large gains. A 20-yard rush, a 17-yard screen and a 25-yard scoring run on fourth and one capped off his 139-yard performance on the ground.

“With our O-line making holes like that and (Myles’) breakaway speed was really good,” Issendorf said. “He came out in the second half and did the same thing.”

Prince Kruah came in for Myles and got the ball on five plays in a row to get his team to the one-yard line. Devan Greene Jr. took a fullback belly play in for the team’s fifth TD of the game.

The offense turned in another strong performance, but the defense was equally productive by forcing half a dozen turnovers.

“Our defense just flies around. That’s just the formula for success for us,” Issendorf said.

Sunday, Nov. 11’s state championship game will be played at St. Cloud State University. Kickoff is set for noon with Science (9-1) getting another crack at Northland Community & Technical College, their only loss of the year.

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