Grafton HS grad Jeff Pederson recalls his 54-yard field goal made in 1977


September 21, 2020 4:30 pm

By Tom Mix
NDHSAA Media Specialist

VALLEY CITY, N.D. – Call it an omen. Call it a cosmic play on time. Sometimes memories come back to you just at the right time when they are needed.

Just ask Jeff Pederson of Fargo, North Dakota. Earlier this month, Pederson, a 60-year-old Chief Executive Officer at The Village Family Service Center in Fargo, received a letter from his sister with some old newspaper and magazine clippings from his days playing high school football at Grafton High School in the fall of 1977 – his senior season.

Some of the clippings chronicled his claim to fame – a 54-yard field goal Pederson had made in a 16-0 win over Bottineau on September 2, 1977 at Bottineau High School.

Here is where the timing of this correspondence comes into play: Just days after Pederson received that trip back into time, a North Dakota prep football player – Fargo Shanley senior kicker Emmet Kenney – connected for a 58-yard field goal in a 43-38 loss to West Fargo Sheyenne on Friday, September 18.

“Maybe I should send them back,” Pederson laughed referring to clippings. 

There are no official records (individual game, season or career) kept for high school football in North Dakota, but when Kenney hit the 58-yard field goal at West Fargo Sheyenne High School the question was inevitably going to be asked … “Is that field goal a state record?”

Unofficially … most likely.

What is known is it’s four yards longer than Pederson’s 54-yarder – the longest field goal known to be on record prior to Kenney’s 58-yarder.

“I haven’t seen the video yet, but I read about it in the newspaper,” Pederson said of Kenney’s field goal. “I’m excited for Emmet. That is a wonderful kick for a high schooler to make.”

Fifty-yard field goals aren’t a regular occurrence at the prep level in North Dakota, but once in a while the chosen few with the leg to cover that distance get to try and that was exactly what Pederson did in 1977.

Pederson, a 1978 graduate of Grafton High School, was the team’s quarterback who also handled kicking duties. In the game against Bottineau, a Spoilers drive stalled in Braves territory and Pederson’s coach called for the kick.

The ball was held at the 44-yard line and Pederson punched it through the uprights.

Pederson said he thought it was a pretty good 44-yard kick at the time. He soon was corrected on the magnitude of his field goal – mainly its true distance.

“I forgot to add the 10 yards from where the goal post is behind the endzone,” Pederson laughed.

Pederson also admitted to missing an extra point kick in the game against Bottineau – a detail that gets overshadowed when you hit from 54 yards.

A field goal of 54-yards, let alone one kicked in North Dakota is bound to drum up some publicity and boy did it ever for Pederson. Pederson’s kick was chronicled in the newspapers across the state in the days that followed. The media attention reached new heights when Pederson was featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” section of the October 3, 1977 issue of the popular national periodical.

“It was unbelievable,” Pederson said of being featured in Sports Illustrated. “Billy Sims of the Oklahoma Sooners was featured on the cover so it was a popular issue.” 

Pederson also said he received letters of congratulations from North Dakota U.S. Senators Milton Young and Quentin Burdick following the feature in Sports Illustrated.

Pederson also played hockey and baseball for the Spoilers. He would later go on to play football for Jim Dew at Valley City State University. Pederson would make a 62-yard field goal for the Vikings in a game against Minnesota State Moorhead played at Alex Nemzek Stadium. He was due to be inducted into Valley City State’s Vikings Athletic Hall of Fame this fall, but the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic has postponed the ceremony until 2021.

Instead, Pederson’s 1977 field goal got renewed appreciation and recognition as being one of the best field goals on record in state history.

It all works out in the end.

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