MHS loaded with downfield targets

Alex Yanosko and Kimani Benjamin grew into an inseparable pair this summer.

The senior quarterback and wide receiver connection for Minot High School practiced together, traveled together, ate together and even worked together.

Benjamin ran routes nearly every morning for the first-team all-state quarterback and accompanied Yanosko to camps in Ohio and Minnesota. Some mornings, the pair coached the area’s youth on the South Hill Complex softball diamonds.

Naturally, Yanosko thinks of Benjamin as his favorite option. The 6-foot-2, 186-pound receiver is eager to reward that confidence with a tougher mental approach than in his junior year.

“When I missed a dropped ball, I’d get down on myself and it’d affect me for the rest of the game,” Benjamin said.

Benjamin is one of four seniors at the top of the depth chart along with senior tight end Jacob Holmen, last season’s team leader in receiving yards. Tre Kinchen is the smallest target at 5-foot-8 and 140 pounds, but he and Benjamin – state-qualifying sprinters in track – give the Magicians dangerous speed on the edges.

“(Tre) might not be the tallest guy, but he’s pretty quick,” Yanosko said. “He can run his routes really well and, like Kimani, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him drop more than two balls in a day. They’re very good receivers.”

Benjamin caught five passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns in 2012.

“Kimani is a physical presence and with his experience last year he brings that to the table,” receivers coach Chauncy Hendershot said, “but he’s put a lot of work in. His size and quickness is something. When he gets it figured out, he can be a threat.”

Holmen, an all-region selection, led the team with 262 receiving yards on 13 receptions. The son of head coach Barry Holmen said he benefitted from the team’s speed on the outside, which freed him from the attention of opposing defenses. Jacob Holmen may be used on the outside, but will play an important blocking role along an inexperienced line.

“You get to be part of two phases of the game,” Jacob Holmen said. “You’re with the linemen a lot, so you have to be able to mesh well with them and then when you get your opportunity on the outside you just have a good time out there.”

Holmen (6-0, 195) is one of many large targets in the passing game. Detroit transfer and senior Kolton Stevens (6-4, 204), senior Jordan Seideman (6-0, 166) and Dalton Mitzel (6-2, 174) factor into a number of formations with their size and can help Yanosko improve his midrange passing. Yanosko said he is better with shorter routes and longer routes. The overall height through the receiving corps should also benefit the latter.

“The short pass is the easiest and I can throw a hitch all day and I can throw a slant all day.” Yanosko said. “I feel more comfortable throwing a fade or a post than I do a 10-yard out just because I know that there’s more of a chance that a corner could jump a 10-yard out than he could a post. On a midrange route it usually has to be in one spot or it’s not gonna be completed. With the post I have more options. I can throw it here, I can throw it over the top.”

With the senior backfield of Brady Lampert and Kolton Larson, MHS expects to be a balanced offense working out of various formations, including the shotgun.

“We like to think we have a versatile offense to attack the defense in a variety of ways,” Hendershot said. “Right now, it’s just trying to teach up the kids, so they see the concept too and we’re all on the same page.”

Hendershot sees Stevens getting closer to being on the same page with the returning Magicians.

“He’s a fast learner,” Hendershot said. “He’s putting in work, you know, that he’s going and drawing up plays. He seems to be picking it up. The best teacher will be experience for him.”

Jacob Holmen was held out of Saturday’s practice – the first with full contact – with a tight hip flexor. He said it is not a serious injury and he expects to be back in pads soon.

The Magicians will scrimmage other area teams on Tuesday and open the season at home against West Fargo on Aug. 30.

Tim Chapman covers Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.