WIBAUX – On the center of a frosty field, Wibaux’s 13 football players gathered in a jubilant scrum in waning sunlight Saturday afternoon, their legacy at long last cemented in this tradition-rich little ranching community.
Moments earlier, the Longhorns had completed a thorough 70-27 dismantling of a red-hot Jordan team for their seventh state championship — and first as a 6-Man program.
Horns blared from the pickups and cars ringing the field. Spectators behind blue-and-gold flags rang cowbells. Coaches hugged.
“Now that’s Longhorn football!” bellowed senior Chance Larson, a towering presence in the huddle and on the field with 155 yards rushing and three touchdowns to finish Wibaux’s perfect season (12-0).
A few minutes later, after a young Jordan (10-3) team glumly accepted its second-place trophy, the spectators swarmed the field as the Longhorns received another piece of championship hardware for the robust trophy case in the school.
“Words can’t describe it, just seeing all my friends and family here coming out to support us,” said senior running back Cade Dschaak, who scored five touchdowns — including the first three of the game as Wibaux raced to a 35-0 second-quarter lead.
“It couldn’t feel any better than this.”
Added senior wide receiver Cobe Begger: “It hasn’t really sank in yet that I’m a state champion. It’s just amazing to do it as a senior and go out with a bang.”
For the Longhorns, the celebration was just beginning.
Soon after, they were summoned to a school bus, which carried the team on a giant figure-eight through the town, serpentining on the ice behind two fire trucks with lights flashing and ahead of a procession twice as long as the four-block downtown. The players poked their heads out the bus windows and waved at supporters who came out of homes and businesses, the largest contingent emerging from Beaver Creek Brewery.
After they showered, the destination was the Shamrock Club, where a Wibaux dad was pledging steak dinners all around.
“This is a moment you’ll never forget,” said junior quarterback Tel Lunde, watching from the front seat after a three-TD performance himself. “It’s just special, that’s all.
The outcome was never much in doubt.
The Longhorns were unstoppable on offense and their two-man defensive line did a yeoman’s job of containing speedy and shifty Jordan quarterback Keenan Murnion along with his stable of fleet teammates. Dschaak and Larson were too fast and too strong, Begger too tall and elusive, and Lunde too much of a little bit of everything.
“They’re just a good team,” Jordan coach Brian Bills said. “They have a lot of power with that run and strong seniors that can block. Their running game is just unstoppable. That running and blocking they did … and when they threw it they could handle it.”
For the Mustangs, who battled injuries early in the season before hitting stride and marching through the playoffs despite more than 1,700 miles of traveling, Saturday was a tuneup of sorts for 2019 anyway.
“We’ll be back!” a Jordan fan yelled amid Wibaux’s celebration.
The Mustangs certainly will be an early favorite. They return every player.
“We couldn’t finish it off, but we know we are a different team from the beginning of the season,” Bills said. “We’re bringing everybody back so we’ll be even better next year. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Saturday, though, was Wibaux’s day.
This moment has been an expectation from Day 1, when the Longhorns knew they had special talent returning. For Craig Lunde, Wibaux’s second-year coach and Tel’s dad, the expectations made the victory equal parts exuberance and relief.
But now he is the latest in a lengthy list of revered coaches to have a championship trophy.
“It’s why we do this,” Lunde said. “It’s why we play football in high school. It’s why we coach. We’ve got lots of goals and this is always everybody‘s top goal and we did it. It’s a very proud moment as a coach, and as a parent and community member. It’s awesome.”
The trophy is especially meaningful, though, to the team’s four seniors, whose names will forever be etched in the lore of a community whose rich football tradition dates to the 1940s.
“It means so much, just to have my name written in the history of the Longhorn football,” Begger said. “I don’t even have words to describe it. It’s just awesome.”
Added Dschaak, the first to cradle the trophy and thrust it skyward with a throaty roar: “It’s amazing. It’s just a really huge sense of pride to know that we kept the legacy going and we put another number on the banner in the gym.”