As was our final football game of the year: The Battle of the Big Lake. The Marauders of Mary traveled north to take on the Minot State University Beavers. Each team has had a difficult year, and so this was a big game for off-season confidence, and it’s always good for the program to beat the rival. The two teams had met up 24 times, and it was dead even at 12-12. So somebody was going to get lucky number 13. And it was the fourth time the traveling trophy was put up, which saw a 2-1 edge to Mary. Mary won the first two, but now the Beavers were looking to make it back-to-back. In the first half, the nerves were evident for both teams. Each team had a special teams miscue on a muffed punt that lead to points for the other team. The difference: Mary cashed in on a FG, while Minot State got a Lavante Bushnell touchdown pass from Jose Escobar. Escobar wasn’t scheduled to be the starter in this one, but on Senior Day the Beavers turned to their four year guy over sophomore Isaiah Weed. He acquitted himself well in this one, with the exception of one throw that wound up in Pick City as Jacob Parker had a 26 year interception return for a touchdown. Eight seconds before that, Mary busted out the trickeration and pitched it out too Zack Graves. The Marauders had run this look countless times this season, and plenty in this game. Graves had been effective with it too, averaging about six yards per carry. Except this time, it wasn’t a carry. He loaded up to pass and found a wide open Sam Saucedo down the field and the HB pass would be the biggest play of the day for UMary. The 58 yard TD combined with the pick-six for a 20-7 lead for the Marauders. With a minute to go until halftime, it felt like UMary was in control and was going to dominate the conversation at the halftime break.
However, they called timeouts with just a minute left looking to get the ball back. Or, more importantly, to force Mary to punt. They could’ve just gone into the locker room, but they decided to force the issue. And what a decision it was. Jaleel Hunn flew in on the punt and sent it flying back into the endzone on the block. And somehow it stayed in bounds for Ryan Fila to recover the touchdown. All of a sudden the Minot State Beavers were right back in it, trailing by six. Special teams defined this game, and it completely flipped the game script. After the halftime break, the offense slowed for both teams. A scoreless third quarter saw more good running for Jarvis Mustipher, the senior back for MSU. He was averaging six yards per carry at halftime, and they continued to run the ball effectively in the second half. More importantly, they fed their senior back. He had six carries going into the locker room, he finished the game with 20. And one of they was a 34 yard run early in the 4th quarter that would set up a one yard touchdown pass to Ray Watkins that would give the Beavers the one-point lead. A few near disasters again on special teams highlighted the action, but the score held. Finally, Mary got the ball back having used all their timeouts to do so. So it was do-or-die time. A field goal would win it.
Mary came out and ran the same play three straight times. And three straight times it worked. The comeback route from sophomore QB Nick McCann (the 4th string QB for UMary) to Sam Saucedo netted first down yardage each time. Mary was closing in on field goal range. But three would be the magic number for Minot State as well. McCann dropped back again, and this time he was sacked by Loni Fonua. Now in danger of losing that field goal chance, McCann dropped back again. Sack. Dalton Houghton got home. Now Mary needed something magical on fourth down. But the third time was the charm for Loni Fonua, as he recorded the 3rd straight sack for MSU to seal the victory for the Beavers. One of the most fun games for both teams all year came down to the narrowest of margins, as Minot State retained the Battle of the Big Lake Trophy by one point. We couldn’t have asked for a better way, a better rivalry, to close out the football season.