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Vikings use air attack to down Jefferson in thrilling season opener

by JEREMY WEBER
For the Eagle | September 7, 2022 12:00 AM

A Bigfork Vikings football squad known for its running game flipped the script and used a pair of passing touchdowns to earn an exciting double-overtime at Jefferson to open the season Friday.

Down 14-7 late in the fourth quarter, the Vikings tied the game on a 32-yard pass from Tristen Herd to Cole Knopik with 1:48 to go in regulation and scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 9-yard completion from Herd to Isak Epperly in the second overtime.

Jefferson had a chance to tie with their possession in the second overtime but Epperly sealed the win for Bigfork when he recovered a Bulldog fumble.

“It was a great high school football game,” Vikings head coach Jim Benn said about the win. “People definitely got their money’s worth.”

Herd finished the game 11 for 21 passing for 127 yards and the two touchdowns while the Vikings ground game was as dominant as ever, compiling 228 yards on 36 carries.

Joseph Farrier led the rushing attack with 169 yards on 19 carries while Nick Walker added 67 yards on just seven carries.

Wyatt Johnson led the defense with 8.5 tackles, four solo, while Manny Baldi, Bryce Gilliard and Jackson Nelson each added 6.5.

While the Vikings came away with the win, Benn said there is still plenty for his team to improve on moving forward.

“We made some typical early-season mistakes, missing blocks here and there, not taking care of something or missing a call. It’s stuff that we need to fix, and we will,” he said. “I’m really proud of how the kids responded to the pressure of being down at the end of regulation, though. Then, in overtime, the defense clamped down and kept them out of the end zone twice.”

After a scoreless opening quarter to the contest, Farrier got the Vikings on the scoreboard first when he broke free for a 60-yard scramble to the end zone with 11:08 to play in the first half.

Herd added the PAT to put Bigfork up 7-0.

Jefferson capped an 11-play, 52 yard drive with a 4-yard scoring pass to tie the game at 7-7 at the break.

Jefferson took a 14-7 lead with 9:39 to play in the third quarter when a Troy Alford punt was blocked and returned 16 yards for a touchdown.

After being held scoreless for the third quarter and most of the fourth, the Vikings two-play, game-tying drive started with 2:02 to play in regulation.

“Tristen stepped up in the pocket and let it loose and Cole made a great catch in the back corner of the end zone to tie things up,” Benn said about the game-tying play.”

Jefferson got the ball first in the initial overtime and the Bulldogs looked as if they would take the lead, but Baldi and Abe Ochs combined to stop the drive within one yard of the end zone on a four-and-goal from the one.

After failing to score in the first extra frame, Bigfork got the ball first in the second overtime and needed just two plays to reach the end zone as Herd hooked up with Epperly for a 9-yard score.

“Beep (Epperly) made a heck of a catch and great play breaking the tackle to get in the end zone,” Benn said about the play.

The Vikings continue the season Friday as they travel to Conrad to face a Cowboys team that is 0-2 this season.