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2019 North Dakota High School Football Players of the Year

The 2019 North Dakota high school football season is in the books!

Before we get to the players of the year, I want to congratulate the Bismarck Century Patriots, Hillsboro-Central Valley Burros, Langdon-Edmore-Munich Cardinals and the Kidder County Wolves for winning state championships this fall! It’s always bittersweet when the season comes to an end, but watching teams celebrate a state title is always a special experience.

I especially enjoy the opportunity getting to interview players after reaching that pinnacle moment. Kidder County senior Isaiah Harter had one of the best reactions after winning the co-op’s first state title. He told me, “I’m going to be telling my kids this forever as soon as I have them. Every time I come to the school, I’m going to look up at the wall, and there will probably be a banner of all of us and a big giant trophy right on the wall that I can look at and be proud of.”

That quote is what high school football is all about! Cherish the memories.

So now let’s get down to highlighting the players of the year in each class. I’ll be the first one to admit that making these lists is extremely difficult. So many players deserve recognition, and it’s always hard to compare athlete to athlete when they play in different regions and have different offensive philosophies among many other variables. That’s why I make sure to gather as much input as I can from coaches, players and media throughout the season. Each player of the year winner will be awarded a MidcoSN Game Ball!

Class AAA

Player of the Year
SchoolPositionStats

Cade Feeney

Bismarck Century

QB/FS

1,293 pass, 10 TD; 703 rush yds, 13 TD; 4 Def INT; 38.3 yds/punt

Simply put, Cade Feeney was the best player on the best team in Class AAA. I had several coaches before the season tell me they felt he was the most dangerous player in the state, and the young man delivered by helping Bismarck Century to its first ever undefeated state championship season.

The way he can improvise in the pocket is what sticks out most on offense. The opposing secondary could be doing an excellent job at covering receivers, but Feeney would extend the play with his feet by either buying more time for his receivers to get open or taking it on the run himself. He’s a great decision maker, too, as evidenced by him only throwing one interception in 127 pass attempts.

On defense, he continued to make plays in his third year as a starter at free safety for Ron Wingenbach’s team. Against Bismarck High, Feeney recorded an interception and a forced fumble that he recovered. Those two turnovers were critical in a tight game with the team’s biggest rival. In addition to his offense and defense, Feeney shined as the punter by averaging over 38 yards per punt. He consistently helped his team in all three phases.

Congrats to Bismarck Century’s Cade Feeney on being the MidcoSN Class AAA Player of the Year!

Other Nominees
Player
SchoolPositionStats

Marcus Gulley

West Fargo

TE/LB

23 rec, 401 yds, 3 TD; 85 tkls, 3 TFL, 10.5 sacks

Joe Kava

Shanley

OL/DL

58 tkls, 20 TFL, 4 sacks

Elijah Klein

Mandan

WR

40 rec, 725 yds, 12 TD

Tyler Terhark

Sheyenne

WR/DB

45 rec, 688 yds, 7 TD; 3 Def INT

 

Class AA

Player of the Year
SchoolPositionStats

Oscar Benson

Hillsboro-Central Valley

RB/LB

1,361 rush yds, 17 TD; 5 rec, 165 yds, 3 TD; 51 tkls, 11.5 TFL

Following the 2017 season, I remember asking Hillsboro-Central Valley head coach Scott Olsen how they were going to replace standout running back Grant Skager. He told me to keep an eye on Oscar Benson, who was coming off a strong sophomore campaign, which included a key interception in the state championship win over Langdon-Edmore-Munich.

Benson burst onto the scene as a junior, garnering first-team all-state honors after rushing for 1,910 yards and 22 touchdowns to go with 50 tackles, four interceptions and four sacks on defense. This fall, the Burros made the jump back to Class AA, and Benson continued to run wild. The NDSU commit finished with over 1,300 rushing yards and scored 20 offensive touchdowns. He averaged 7.6 yards per carry and was a threat to score from anywhere on the field.

Benson put the exclamation point on his Burro career by rushing for 134 yards and scoring a pair of touchdowns in the 35-12 state championship victory over Beulah. After the Dakota Bowl win, I asked Benson to reflect on his high school career. "Not a lot of people can say that they’ve made it to the Dakota Bowl three times and won a couple titles in the same building that you’re going to play at in college," he said. "I’ve been with this group forever. I love these guys. They’re family to me and I’m going to miss them forever."

Congrats to Hillsboro-Central Valley’s Oscar Benson on being the MidcoSN Class AA Player of the Year!

Other Nominees
Player
SchoolPositionStats

Korey Rueb

Beulah

OL/DL

Paved the way for 3,711 rush yds (337.4 yds/game)

 

Class A

Player of the Year
SchoolPositionStats

Simon Romfo

Langdon-Edmore-Munich

QB/DB

2,820 pass yds, 39 TD; 1,083 rush yds, 15 TD; 42 tkls, 6 INT

25-0. That is Langdon-Edmore-Munich’s record with Simon Romfo as the starting quarterback. The junior just guided the Cardinals to a second consecutive state championship, and they’ll no doubt be the favorites to three-peat in 2020.

Cardinals head coach Josh Krivarchka raved about his quarterback after the win: "He’s seen it all. He makes great reads for us." You could argue that Romfo also had the best supporting cast in the state, with the likes of seniors Jackson Delvo, Sean Gette and twin brother Grant Romfo. But Simon is undoubtedly the biggest key to the Cardinals success. In 2018 as a sophomore, (Simon) Romfo passed for 2,523 yards and 31 TD, while rushing for 884 yards and 13 scores.

You’d probably think there’s no way he can top that – but that’s exactly what he did. This fall, he torched opposing defenses for 2,820 yards through the air and 39 passing touchdowns against just one interception. He also rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns on only 104 carries. It’s also worth mentioning that he made 42 tackles and finished with six interceptions for a second season in a row. The majority of these stats were recorded in first halves of games because so many got out of hand, with the Cardinals improving their points per game from 35.9 last season to a whopping 47.7 ppg this fall.

Simon is an elite decision maker that has a strong arm and, like Bismarck Century’s Cade Feeney, can improvise to work his way out of trouble in the backfield. One of Simon’s top competitors for this award lives in the same household. Grant Romfo recorded more than 1,500 yards of combined offense and 30 touchdowns himself. Grant also really starred on defense, where the 6'0", 185 lbs junior made 86 tackles, four sacks and picked off three passes.

The interesting part about the list of finalists chosen in Class A is that only Bowman County’s Jacob Svihovec is a senior. This list might look pretty similar this time next year.

Congrats to Langdon-Edmore-Munich’s Simon Romfo on being the MidcoSN Class A Player of the Year!

Other Nominees
Player
SchoolPositionStats

Jaxon Feller

Bishop Ryan

RB/DB

1,805 rush yds, 21 TD; 214 rec yds, 2 TD; 71 tkls, 15 TFL, 6.5 sacks

Grant Romfo

Landon-E-M

RB/LB

876 rush yds, 22 TD; 694 rec yds, 8 TD; 86 tkls, 4 TFL, 3 INT

Jordan Sours

Lisbon

RB/LB

1,844 rush yds, 28 TD (8.8 ypc); rec TD; 37 tkls, 2 TFL, 4 INT

Jacob Svihovec

Bowman Co.

QB/DB

1,816 pass yds, 22 TD; 1,048 rush yds, 17 TD; 28 tkls, 2 INT

 

9-Man

Player of the Year
SchoolPositionStats

Parker Hager

Kidder County

RB/LB

101 pass yds, 2 TD; 154 rec yds, 4 TD; 993 rush yds, 15 TD (15 ypc); 69 solo tkls, 2 INT; 7 KR TD, 2 PR TD

This decision was tough, and I mean really tough. For me, it came down to Hager, New Rockford-Sheyenne’s Bo Belquist and Finley-Sharon-Hope-Page’s Jack Ihry. All three were named outstanding senior athletes of the year in their respective regions, and they’re all worthy of being our MidcoSN Player of the Year. I could make a case for each one of them and I will because it was truly THAT close.

Belquist is the most naturally talented of the trio. He scored on 27.6% of his touches, which is absurd. He was the top threat on the highest scoring offense in the state. The Rockets put up 53 points per game this season. The only time they failed to reach 40 points was in the mud bowl against Cavalier. Belquist went down swinging, too. He caught three touchdown passes and took back a pick six in the 44-42 quarterfinal loss to Finley-Sharon-Hope-Page. He won a MidcoSN Game Ball earlier this season, and with his freakish athleticism, I think he could turn out to be a gem for Bubba Schweigert and his staff at UND.

Belquist’s future college teammate, Jack Ihry, is ironically the main person responsible for his state championship dream being dashed. Ihry ran like a man possessed in that quarterfinal win, rumbling for 377 yards and five touchdowns on 48 carries. Ihry took a team that had won just two games last season and had them chasing perfection into the state semifinal round. The young man that I like to call "The Lumberjack" put the team on his back several times throughout the fall and literally carried opponents on his back several times, too. It’s not too often that you see a player rush for 2,400 yards and 33 touchdowns in a season. Ihry is special, and he’ll be remembered as one of the greatest to ever don a Spartan jersey.

But, this year, the top honor in 9-man goes to senior running back and linebacker Parker Hager of Kidder County. Hager is one of those guys that flies under the radar because he’s not the biggest guy – 5'10" and 185 pounds – and he didn’t put up dominant numbers in any one offensive stat category, but after watching him play in the postseason, it's pretty evident how much he meant to that Wolves team. He doesn’t have the raw talent like Belquist or the big build of Ihry, but the young man is a gamer and an incredible leader.

He also contributed in pretty much every facet of the game. He passed for two touchdowns, he hauled in four touchdown catches, he rushed for 15 scores (averaged 15 yards per carry), he piled up 69 solo tackles and scored nine touchdowns on special teams. (NINE!) He did all of that while playing in arguably the strongest region in 9-man. Region four teams finished a combined 8-3 in the playoffs with two of those losses coming to a fellow region four team.

As the season wore on, Hager continued to make critical plays in big spots. He helped the Wolves defense limit Ihry to just 67 rushing yards on 21 carries in the semifinal game. In that same game, Hager turned nine carries into 156 yards and four touchdowns to help his squad punch their ticket to the Dakota Bowl. Then in the state championship, Hager completed his only pass attempt for a 30-yard gain, rushed six times for 36 yards and a touchdown, and also hauled in a trio of passes for 81 yards and a score. On defense, he led everyone with eight solo tackles and an interception.

After the state championship victory, this is how Hager described his team’s playing style: "We hustle. We hit. It's just a continuous all game kind of pain for the other team."

Congrats to Kidder County’s Parker Hager on being the MidcoSN 9-Man Player of the Year!

Other Nominees
Player
SchoolPositionStats

Bo Belquist

NR-S

WR/DB

731 rush yds, 9 TD (12 ypc); 924 rec yds, 18 TD; 42 solo tkls, 7 INT, 2 Def TD; 1 KR TD, 2 PR TD

Jack Ihry

FSHP

RB/LB

255 rush, 2,400 yds, 33 TD (9.4 ypc); 15 rec, 204 yds, TD; 73 solo tkls, 10 TFL; 2 KR TD, 1 PR TD

Filed Under Football | Varsity Sports | ND High School