BISMARCK — Defensive coordinator Adam Meyer has been asking his Hall defensive backs for a “pick six” as a birthday present all football season. On Saturday, Colin Aimone delivered.
Aimone returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown, his pick six giving the Red Devils a 20-7 lead with six minutes remaining in a 2A playoff opener over host Bismarck-Henning. The Red Devils’ defense made the score stand up, earning a second-round home game at 2 p.m. Saturday vs. Momence (7-3).
“That was his gift. He’s been asking for it all year. First playoff game he finally got it,” Aimone said. “I just read the quarterback’s eyes, and he was throwing right to the kid Tyler Taber was guarding. Right before he caught it, (Taber) just popped him,and the ball bounced off him, and it came right to me and I had a wide open lane and I just put it in.
About winning the playoff opener and coming home next week, Aimone said. “It’s a crazy feeling. I can’t even describe it.”
Aimone’s play was one of many highlights for the Hall defense which forced six turnovers on the day. Jake Merkel and A.J. Gaeta also had interceptions and Trevor Urbanski, Aimone and Gaeta all recovered BH fumbles.
“We really buckled down,” said senior linebacker Nathan Tonozzi, who led the Hall defense with 14 tackles. “We knew they were bigger us, and we’d just have to come in real physical and that’s what we did. We hit hard right away and took the ball away several times and did what we had to do. Our offense wasn’t what we thought it’d be today, so our defense came to play.”
“We made some big plays in that second half. Only giving up seven points. (The defense) really stepped it up. All the credit goes to them,” Hall quarterback Taggart Venegas said.
The six turnovers were a recipe for failure, BH coach Mark Dodd said.
“We kind of got what we deserved,” Dodd said. “When you turn the ball over to good teams, you’re going to lose.”
While the Hall offense sputtered throughout the day, Venegas came up big when he needed.
He scrambled for a seven-yard touchdown to give the Red Devils a 6-0 lead in the first quarter.
The left-hander passer added a 30-yard touchdown pass to Aimone and the conversion pass to A.J. Gaeta in the second quarter to send the Red Devils into the lockerroom at halftime with a 14-7 lead.
“That was the turner right there. It changed the whole game. That put us up two scores,” Hall coach Randy Tieman said. “We told them defense wins championship. They stepped up big time. (Bismarck) broke one early, but we pretty much shut them down. They have a good running attack and we stopped it.”
“Our offense wasn’t working as well to what we thought it was like we can. The defense won that game,” Aimone said.
The Hall defense gave up one big play when Donnie Ganley dashed 71 yards down the home team’s sidelines to give the Blue Devils a 7-6 lead late in the first quarter.