OTC to face Border West in section championship
By Chad Koenen
Top seeded and fourth ranked Otter Tail Central is just one game away from its first state tournament since 2018. The Bulldogs, who are 9-0 overall, defeated Hancock for the second time in 10 days, this time in a high scoring 52-24 contest.
Combining for nearly 700 yards of total offense, there were no shortage of exciting plays on Saturday afternoon as the Bulldogs led by a 22-18 margin at halftime. However, it was all Bulldogs in the second half as they outscored the Owls 30-6 in the final 24 minutes of action.
Lane Dilly scored his first of four touchdowns in the game early in the first quarter when he found the end zone from 5-yards out. He converted the two-point conversion to give the Bulldogs an 8-0 lead.
Hancock quickly answered with a 4-yard touchdown of their own, but failed on the two-point conversion to leave the score at 8-6 at the end of the first quarter.
In a wild second quarter featuring four total touchdowns, Jack Mekalson scored on a 2-yard run and Mason Dalluge converted the two-point conversion for the Bulldogs to put them in front 16-6.
Chase Evink answered with a 1-yard run for Hancock, but the two-point conversion once again failed to leave the score at 16-12.
Later in the quarter, Mekalson found Bjerke on a 68-yard pass to put OTC in front 22-12 with just minutes left in the half.
Unfortunately, the Owls quickly marched the ball down the field and scored as time expired in the first half when Titus Bjerketvedt caught a 7-yard pass in the back of the end zone to make the score 22-18 at the break.
In the second half the Bulldogs offense and defense took over as they outscored the Owls 30-6 to come away with the win.
Dilly scored a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter from 4 and 5-yards out for the Bulldogs.
The lone Hancock score in the third quarter came on a halfback pass when Evink found Bjerketvedt on a 58-yard pass.
In the fourth quarter the Bulldogs pulled away for good when Bjerke caught his second touchdown pass of the game on a 5-yard pass, before Dilly scored his fourth touchdown of the game on a 5-yard run. Chris Fronning converted both two-point conversions to give the Bulldogs a 52-24 win.
OTC was led offensively by Dilly who rushed 20 times for 104 yards and 4 touchdowns. Fronning rushed 9 times for 89 yards, while Mekalson rushed 9 times for 58 yards and a touchdown and Dalluge rushed 2 times for 7 yards.
Bjerke caught 4 passes for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Dalluge caught 2 passes for 35 yards.
Mekalson went 6-10 passing for 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
As a team the Bulldogs outgained the Owls by a 398-301 margin with most of its work coming on the ground. The Bulldogs rushed for 258 yards and forced 3 Hancock turnovers in the win.
With the win the Bulldogs will take on second seeded Border West in the Section 4 9-man championship game on Thursday morning at 11:30 a.m. at the FargoDome.
Earlier this season the Bulldogs defeated Border West by a score of 26-8 in a wet and wild game in Wheaton. Border West, who are 8-2 on the season, advanced to the section championship game with a 14-6 win over Underwood on Saturday. The Buccaneers scored a late touchdown and converted a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter to break a 6-6 tie against the Rockets.
The Buccaneers come into the game averaging 30.9 points per game on offense, while giving up 19.7 points per game on defense.
The Bulldogs average 41.6 points per game on offense, while giving up just 12.9 points per game on defense. Both are among the best in 9-man this season.
The winner of Thursday’s section championship game will advance to the state football tournament on Thursday, Nov. 9 at Buffalo High School against the winner of the Section 2 championship. Top seeded Red Rock Central will take on third seeded Cedar Mountain in that section championship game. Both teams are 6-3 on the season.