The Fargo Invaders absolutely dominated the Northern States Football League one year ago by outscoring opponents 472 to 24 through 12 games, on their way to a perfect record and a championship.
This season, they’re new members of the highly-touted Northern Elite Football League, but that doesn’t appear to be stopping the Invaders from picking up right where they left off.
“We’ve gone awhile now without having that sick feeling in our stomachs,” Invaders head coach Brent Lundgren told Developmental Football USA. “We switched leagues to see how we stack up against the teams in the Northern Elite Football League.
“We’d like some close games, because last year the fans got kind of bored. As a coach, winning 40-0 is fun, but as a fan, a 41-40 game brings more excitement.”
“We’ve got a pretty good team,” Lundgren said. “We’ve got a lot of talent and we pride ourselves on being pretty well organized. We knew the Brawlers had let some players go and had some recently quit, so we wanted to score early.”
And score early, they did.
Fargo scored on its first two drives and pulled out to a 21-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and extended it to 31-0 by halftime.
“Getting a 31-0 lead at halftime was pretty encouraging for us and for our players,” Lundgren said. “But, they came back, they didn’t quit. They kept trying to get at it. They scored in the fourth quarter and got a safety on us. They’ve got a good quarterback and they’ve got a decent team, they just need to get their act together, that’s all.”
The Invaders could potentially shake up the entire NEFL if they keep playing at this level. With just one week in the books, things are already interesting around the league with the Des Moines Blaze knocking off the St. Paul Pioneers 15-11 on Saturday.
“We think we can do well in this league,” Lundgren said. “We think we can compete right at the top. How close can we be? Can we beat the Pioneers? We’ll see. We’re going into that June 3rd game with the attitude that we can beat those guys. If we beat those guys, then they have to come back to Fargo to play us.”
Lundgren believes the NEFL West will come down to his team and the Pioneers, which have won the league championship every season for the past decade.
“If we win the league, I wouldn’t be shocked at all,” Lundgren said. “If we ended up with two losses, it wouldn’t be a disappointing season by any means. To come out with two losses and if we had two losses, I’d think they’d both be to the Pioneers. Our focus as coaches is play to our ability, not to the team that we’re playing. We coach our guys to play at a high level, make plays all the time, play loose and don’t worry about the other team, just play to our level.
“I don’t believe in that fear mentality. I tell the guys to play to your level, play loose, have fun and if we’ve got better players than the other team, hopefully we’ll win and have fun doing it. I’m sure they’ll give us a good run for our money and if we get beat by them because they have better personnel than us, so be it. Then we know we’ve got to improve our personnel too.”
With a roster full of guys with collegiate experience, the Invaders certainly aren’t lacking in terms of personnel.
“We’ve got a gold mine in Fargo-Moorehead,” Lundgren said. “If you don’t play for us, you don’t play at all. There’s no one else to play for. If guys don’t have at least some college experience, it’s tough to make it for us.”
Offensively, Fargo fields a formidable rushing attack with C.T. Davis and Brandon Jones to go with a whole arsenal of talented pass-catchers.
“We had a receiver finish with 130 receiving yards Saturday, John Baune, he’s our split end,” Lundgren said. “We’ve got a good tight end in Nick Jackson and a good flanker in Micah Arnold. You’re not going to take one guy away. We run a spread offense mostly, we’re going to run some I. We’ve got two or three good fullbacks that can get some blocking in.”
With playmakers across the board, the well-coached Invaders don’t come in stubbornly stuck on a certain game plan.
“We want to see what the defense tries to take away and if there’s something they’re not going to take away, we’re going to keep running those same basic plays,” Lundgren said. “The key is to see what they’re trying to do to us. At the end of the day, our goal is to try to get in that 300 to 400-yard range per game, be half on rush and half on pass. If you take the run away, we’ll throw. If you take the pass away, we’ll run it on you.”
Fargo’s defense, which has only allowed 32 combined points over the past 13 games, is stacked across the board.
“Our defense is pretty good,” Lundgren said. “Cornelious Wahlo and Anthony Atonio on the defensive line. Jeremy Gordon is one of our linebackers, he’s key for us. Defensive backs, Brandon Sloan, Mike Ford, Steve Othelot, our safety, he’s good about leading the team and keeping everybody on the same page. We’re pretty good defensively.
“We have good pass rush, good linebackers. As a coach, doing the offensive side, it’s nice to have a good defense to where we can take some chances and if it doesn’t pan out, we’ve got a good defense.”
As the season runs on, the Invaders are a team to keep an eye on and time will tell how their winning tradition plays out in the more competitive NEFL.
“We’ll see how we react if we get down in a game or down by a touchdown or two,” Lundgren said. “That’s going to show what kind of character our guys have.”