FARGO — Out with the old in with the new as 2016 is only hours away.
But before we take the plunge into the new year here are a handful of top stories on the North Dakota prep sports scene from 2015 inside The Forum’s coverage area I felt like revisiting again.
FARGO SHANLEY GIRLS HOOPS REPEAT
In March the Fargo Shanley girls basketball team repeated as North Dakota Class A state champions. The Deacons spent the entire year as the unanimous No. 1 ranked team all year in the weekly NDAPSSA Class A polls and capped off their undefeated season with a win over Bismarck Century in the state championship game at the Fargodome. Shanley was led by first-team all state players Lauren Rotunda and Sarah Jacobson. With Jacobson and Rotund back this winter, the Deacons are in good shape to contend for a possible three-peat. Their winning streak currently sits at 49 games.
SHEARER AND LOEPP END PREP WRESTLING CAREERS WITH HISTORIC TITLES
In February, West Fargo senior Jordan Shearer and Oakes senior Erik Loepp each capped off impressive prep grappling careers with individual state championships. Shearer became the first prep wrestler to win six individual state championships. He won the 145-pound Class A title at the Fargodome and ended his prolific career with 259 wins — the most in state history. Earlier, Loepp became just the fifth wrestler in state history to win five individual state titles winning the Class B 138-pound state title. Shearer is now wrestling at Nebraska. Loepp is now wrestling at Minnesota State Moorhead.
STATE HOCKEY TOURNAMENT RETURNS TO FARGO
For the first time since 1971 the North Dakota high school boys hockey tournament was hosted in a city other than Grand Forks. The state’s hockey tournament became a combined boys and girls hockey tournament in the late 2000s and has been exclusively held at Ralph Engelstad Arena until last February when local skaters converged on Fargo’s Scheels Arena for state hockey action. The 6,000 capacity Scheels Arena created a different atmosphere that fans responded to and the event is set to return to Fargo in 2017. Minot won the boys hockey title and Bismarck won the girls championship.
DAKOTA BOWL BEGINS AND ENDS WITH HIGHLIGHT REEL PLAYS
The 2015 Dakota Bowl at the Fargodome was one for the record books. The day kicked off with the 9-man championship game between No. 3 ranked Richland playing No. 5-ranked North Prairie. With both teams tied with just over a minute left to play, the Colts’ first-year head coach John Freeman called in a hook-and-ladder play dubbed by the team as the “Coop and Travor Play”. The play worked despite a scary beginning where senior quarterback Brady Heyen fumbled the snap. Heyen recovered and threw a pass to junior receiver Cooper Lingen who then pitched the ball to senior receiver Travor Flaa, who took it the rest of the way for a touchdown. It was the winning play that capped off a 11-0 season for the Colts who won their first state football championship since 2005. Richland’s road to the titles was also historic in that they defeated the other four ranked 9-man teams in the state during the playoffs — No. 2-ranked Cavalier in the second round, No. 1 Thompson in the quarterfinals, No. 4 Bismarck Shiloh Christian in the semifinals and No. 5 North Prairie in the championship game. The hook-and-ladder game winner would be tough to top as far as highlights would go, but Bismarck senior wide receiver Adam Geiger of Bismarck Century proved to be a one-man touchdown catching machine in the Class 3A title game. Geiger made two one-handed grabs in the game — including one that will likely forever go down in state high school football lore which saw him make a one-handed, outstretched 34-yard touchdown grab in the third quarter that made ESPN’s Top 10 plays on SportsCenter that night. Geiger later made another touchdown catch in the game to seal Century’s 28-21 win over Minot.
FORMER LOCAL HOCKEY STANDOUT ZACH KRAFT PASSES AWAY
Former Fargo North boys hockey standout Zach Kraft passed away in November ending a lengthy battle with cancer. Kraft gained notoriety in the region as the player who scored the game-winning goal of the 2012 North Dakota boys high school state championship game, which went into overtime. He later went onto to play junior hockey before being diagnosed with cancer. A year ago he was a volunteer assistant coach with the Spartans boys hockey team. The Spartans will hang Kraft’s jersey in the North locker room at the Coliseum and will wear decals on their helmets to honor one of the program’s best players.
SOUTH BOYS TENNIS ENDS RED RIVER’S STREAK
In October, one of the state’s longest streak of consecutive state championships won came to end. Grand Forks Red River entered the North Dakota boys tennis state tournament having won the last 17 state team championships. Earlier in the season, Fargo South ended the Roughriders’ streak of consecutive match wins and at state met Red River in the team championship. The Bruins won 3-2 with Sophomore Davis Lawley winning the decisive point at No. 1 singles. Lawley later went onto win his first individual singles championship the next day.