In 1982, the Ennis Mustangs faced the Wibaux Longhorns with a state championship on the line. The Mustangs secured a win and a state title, besting Wibaux 38-28. Now, 31 years later, the current Ennis football team has a chance to repeat history.
Last Saturday, the Mustangs traveled to Charlo and charged past the Vikings to secure a shot at the state championship with a score of 50-14.
Senior Connor Sullivan opened the game for the Mustangs receiving a touchdown pass from junior quarterback Walker McKitrick on the first snap. McKitrick was good for 11 of 14, passing for a total of 240 yards—finding Sullivan for three more touchdowns and Chad Johnerson for one.
Seniors Wes Goodman and Roy Moen contributed to the scoreboard, each rushing for a touchdown.
Charlo initially gave the Mustangs trouble on defense, intercepting two of McKitrick’s passes in the first quarter, but Ennis’s size and speed allowed them to hit their stride and continually push for the end zone without looking back.
“Charlo was the fastest team we’ve run into this season,” Coach Jay Fredrickson said. “They played us tough but in the end our kids wanted to move on… [McKitrick] had two interceptions in the first quarter, but he also had two touchdown passes in that quarter too.”
Fredrickson said the team is not used to having setbacks, but it is a reality of the game. The important part is being able to pull it together and come out on top, which is exactly what the team did.
Ennis resident J.T. France was a senior on the 1982 winning football team. France sees a likeness between the team that beat Wibaux 31 years ago and the current Mustangs.
“We were rolling over people too—averaging between 50 and 60 points a game while holding the other teams back—shutting them out often too,” France said.
The 1982 Mustangs were small—averaging 155-160 pounds—but quick. In the regular season, the boys flew past opponents, much like this year’s team. Once the Mustangs entered the playoffs, competition amped up and according to France, the team “barely squeaked by” Augusta in the semifinals, winning 8-6 over the “big old farm boys.”
The 1982 team then traveled to Wibaux to take on the Longhorns on their home field for the state title. At the end of the second quarter, the Mustangs were down 19-0 after struggling to run against the larger team. At halftime, France remembers the Longhorns walking past the team and heckling the boys, holding up their fingers to indicate they were number one.
“We came out of that locker room after halftime pretty mad and vowing for revenge,” France said. “We came out with a new game plan and just started having success throwing the ball and tightening up our defense.”
The halftime strategy shift worked and the Mustangs came back from a substantial deficit to beat Wibaux 38-28.
The current Mustangs have a core group of 11 seniors, the majority who have played football together since they were very young. According to Coach Fredrickson, they are a cohesive group.
“They’re just like brothers in that they will fight and bicker but at the end of the day they always stand up for each other,” he said.
Fredrickson also spoke to the team’s maturity and good sportsmanlike conduct.
“I always tell them to do their ‘talking’ from the start of the play until the whistle—to talk with their pads,” Fredrickson explained. “Don’t worry about the person trying to cheap shot you because there is always an opportunity to right a wrong on the field during game time.”
“Let the game speak for itself,” he concluded. “And that’s what [the boys] do.”
Now, the 2013 Mustangs are looking to beat the undefeated Wibaux Longhorns for a state championship with the added excitement of a home game in Ennis. The Longhorns have held opponents to less than 24 points a game for the entire season, but trailed Belt in their semifinal game last weekend until the fourth quarter when they pulled off a close 18-14 win.
Fredrickson said the Longhorns are a legitimate and good team with a winning history. Wibaux will come in with big, fast boys, according to Fredrickson.
“They’re 11-0 and we’re 11-0,” Fredrickson said. “But there’s only going to be one undefeated team at the end of this game.”