As the first round of the playoffs opened up, it was the Forreston Cardinals who had the latest start time, which has become the norm under Head Coach Denny Diduch, and who can argue with him looking at Forreston's playoff success over the past 6 seasons. This time they were squaring off with the #14 seed Salt Fork Storm as the Cardinals began state title defense.
The game started off to plan for the Cards, as they forced the Storm into an opening drive 3 and out, which set Forreston up at the Salt Fork 42 yard line to begin their first series. The quick no huddle offense threw off the Storm, along with the plethora of different backs Forreston used on their opening drive so the Storm couldn't key in on one person. This set up an Ethan Mulder 5 yard TD run 2:20 later as the Cards took the lead 6-0.
The next series for the Storm was a basic repeat of the first one, this time 9 yards deeper on their own side of the field. A better punt put Forreston at the Salt Fork 45 to start their 2nd series, only this time the Cardinal attack was much quicker, as AJ Christensen took the ball off tackle, cut to the outside and was off to the races for a 31 yard TD run pushing Forreston ahead 12-0 with 6:29 remaining in the 1st quarter.
Salt Fork then started to go to work as they found room on quick out passes from Gage Romack to Brady McMasters and Blaize Griffin as they began to drive the field. The Storm found the Cardinal defense on their heels as they drove inside the 10 yard line, and getting ready to punch it in. Then, desperately needing a stop, the Cardinals Garett Badertscher cut off a Romack pass over the middle for the interception at the Forreston 1 yard line to end the Storm's attack.
Forreston took over from their own 1 with 3:51 remaining in the 1st quarter. They would drive the ball to their own 43 yard line, where Salt Fork forced the Cardinals into a 4th and 3 situation. The Cards would send out the punt team, which caught the Storm by surprise because by the looks of it they had expected the Cardinals to go for it, studying film and noticing that the Cards don't like to punt the ball. The Storm called a timeout to get the right personnel on the field, but then Coach Diduch came out from the timeout with the offense on the field, and the Cards would get a big 3 yard run by Mulder for the 1st down to extend the drive. The Cardinals then went into overdrive as Evan Kelsey would punch it in from 7 yards out at the start of the 2nd quarter to cap off a 99 yard drive for Forreston and extend the lead to 20-0 with 11:02 left in the half.
On the ensuing drive, Salt Fork would start at their own 42. As Romack dropped back to pass he found Griffin over the middle, but Badertscher was their to tip the ball in the air as Christensen came up with the INT and raced the down the sidelines. It appeared that Christensen had tip toed the sideline and was just inside the pylon before tumbling out of bounds, but the refs ruled him out at the 5 yard line. But no need to worry as running mate Gavin Fuchs took the ball up the middle for a 5 yard TD run to give Forreston a 28-0 lead with 10:39 remaining in the first half and the route was on.
Forreston scored on every drive in the 1st half to go up 43-0 with 3:43 still to play in the 1st half, and the subs started rolling in for the Cardinal defense. Salt Fork would take advantage of this and go back to work through the air, as they drove 55 yards to the end zone, capping it off with a Romack to McMasters 9 yard TD pass and Forreston took a 43-7 lead into half time.
Forreston would receive the ball to start the 2nd half, and needing another score to get the running clock. Starting the drive at their own 22 yard line the Cardinal offense continue to click pushing the ball across mid-field. Then with 9:13 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Evan Kelsey busted through a gaping hole off tackle and took the ball to the end zone on a 40 yard TD to cap the scoring for Forreston on the day.
Salt Fork would punch in another TD on their last drive of the game as they only controlled the ball for 2 series in the entire 2nd half as Forreston rolled to a 50-14 victory.
Forreston out gained Salt Fork 429 yards, all on the ground, to 210 yards for the game. Leading the charge for Forreston was AJ Christensen who finished with 12 carries for 103 yards 1 TD and 1 INT. Evan Kelsey had 5 carries for 86 yards and 2 TD, while Gavin Fuchs had 10 carries for 75 yards and 1 TD. Ethan Mulder would finish the day with 9 carries for 43 yards and 2 TD, while Garett Badertscher had 5 carries for 41 yards and 2 INT.
Salt Fork finished with just 14 yards rushing, with 196 yards coming through the air. Gage Romack was 22-34 passing for 196 yards and 2 TD with 3 INT. His leading targets were Brady McMasters who had 9 receptions for 67 yards and 1 TD and Blaize Griffin with 4 receptions for 47 yards and 1 TD. Gavin Chew also pitched in with 3 receptions for 44 yards.
Forreston advances on to play Fulton in round 2. The Steamers beat Marquette Saturday 34-16, as this will play host to the Cardinals on Saturday.