Fargo Invaders semi-pro football returns to the gridiron in new venue
by Ryan Christiansen
April 28, 2021
FARGO, N.D. – Familiar faces will be squaring off across the line of scrimmage at 6:00 p.m. Saturday, May 1, when the 2019 Northern Elite Football League champion Fargo Invaders host the MinnDak Titans from East Grand Forks, Minnesota, in the Invaders’ home and league opener at Jim Gotta Stadium at Moorhead High School in Moorhead, Minnesota.
The orange- and scarlet-clad Invaders are very familiar with Titans personnel. That’s because a few former Invaders now play for MinnDak and will be dressed in the old gold-, navy-, and crimson red-clad uniforms of the Titans. Meanwhile, a few former Titans will now be dressed in Fargo’s “Creamsicle” colors.
The home field for the Invaders, however, is new. For longtime Invaders fans accustomed to driving to south Fargo for games, the new venue in Moorhead promises to be a treat for both fans and the team alike. This year, the Invaders have partnered with Moorhead High School, and “they have a Great Facility to help accommodate our needs,” said team president Matt Petznick. “With a 3,000-seat capacity, Jim Gotta Stadium enables us to follow local guidelines for social distancing, and Moorhead High School also has state-of-the-art locker rooms for both teams. There is a large press box for support staff and, in future years, they will be adding more turf, which will accommodate flexible practice times.”
The Invaders will be looking for their first win of the season Saturday. Last weekend, a portion of the team and support staff traveled to Rapid City, South Dakota, to face the Rapid City War Eagles in a non-league matchup that was played at 7:00 p.m. Saturday, April 24, at Sioux Park in Rapid City, South Dakota.
The Fargo team has a history with Rapid City, and Invaders head coach Zach Stich said it’s great to be able to play games outside the league. “We played them in 2019 and they have weathered the storm of the pandemic,” he said. Stich noted that several other non-league competitors have folded. “The War Eagles are also on the rise,” he said, “and it was nice to play strong competition before we head into our league season.”
In Rapid City, the Invaders got off to a good start. In the first quarter, quarterback Dev Alger (#4) connected with wide receiver Nate Soto (#19) on a touchdown pass to put Fargo ahead 6-0. The Invaders did not convert on the two-point conversion attempt, however.
In the second quarter, the Invaders scored another touchdown on a 4-yard run by running back LeAnte Baldwin (#10). Once again, the Invaders failed to convert the two-point conversion attempt, and the Invaders took a 12-0 lead.
Down by two scores, the War Eagles responded. With less than four minutes remaining in the second quarter, Rapid City scored a touchdown and converted for two extra points. When the whistle blew to end the half, Fargo led the contest 12-8.
In the third quarter, the Invaders defense took over the job of scoring when they backed up the War Eagles to their own goal line and forced a safety. This made up for lost points on the missed conversions and put Fargo up 14-8. Then with 11:20 left to play in the fourth quarter, the Invaders increased their lead on a 15-yard touchdown run by running back Brandon Jones (#23).
Undeterred, the War Eagles scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including the final touchdown with 52 seconds remaining on the game clock to win the game 22-20.
Coach Stich said the ending felt unexpected. “I really don’t believe the game was in their favor until the final minute of the game,” he said. “We had some self-inflicted penalties that set them up to make a final drive.” But it didn’t help that the team was short-handed for the trip south. “Most of our defense had been on the field for the entire game with little rotation, and we were running on fumes by the time Rapid City got the ball back,” he said. “Yes, we did have fewer players, but that is the nature of the beast. We can’t make that as an excuse for wins and losses.”
Despite the loss, Stich said the game allowed him and his assistants to see a lot of different players and to see how they reacted to game situations. “We have a lot of fighters,” he said. “There were guys playing out of position and I was really impressed with the effort and what I saw out of a few players. These are guys that we will need to trust throughout the season to give our starters breaks or to step in if an injury happens. Guys like Germaine Armstrong, Matt Totay, and Jeremy Peterson really stood out in the game. It was good to know that I can look their way and expect to get the same result as from many of our other of our high-profile players.”
Stich said after not playing a game for a year and a half, “it was great to have strong competition to help wake us up and knock off the rust, for both the players and the coaches,” he said. “I take nothing away from the War Eagles. They played a great game, and we knew when we agreed to play them that it was going to be a dog fight. We needed to be focused and sharp if we were going to win, and that day, we didn’t play 60 minutes of football.”
When the Invaders host the Titans this Saturday, the game will feature a lot of players, on both offense and defense, who couldn’t make the trip to Rapid City. Stich said overall, “preparing for the Titans will involve us cleaning up mistakes from the first game and executing what we know we do best.”
About the Fargo Invaders
The Fargo Invaders are a semi-professional football team based in Fargo, North Dakota. Established in 2013, the team played its first game in 2014 and has since won three championships, including the Midwest Premier Football League championship in 2014, the Northern States Football League championship in 2016 (when the team went undefeated 12-0), and the Northern Elite Football League championship in 2019. Through the 2019 season, the team’s overall record is 49-19. For more information visit fargoinvaders.org.
About the Northern Elite Football League
The Northern Elite Football League played its first season in 2008 and features teams from the Midwest and Upper Great Plains. The current lineup of teams includes the Bismarck Wolves, Fargo Invaders, (Grand Forks area) MinnDak Titans, Minneapolis Warriors, St. Paul Pioneers, and Twin Cities Sabercats. For more information visit northernelitefootball.com.
Jim Gotta Stadium – Moorhead High School
2400 2nd Ave S
Moorhead, MN 56560