Hardware on the line for Lions, Aggies

Two coaches and a president walk into a bar…

No, really.

Bishop Ryan football coach Brad Borkhuis, assistant Frank Sowitch and Aggie Foundation president Terry Peterson met Thursday afternoon at Sports On Tap to get a sneak peek at Ryan and Velva’s new traveling trophy.

The unnamed piece of hardware – Battle Penny, Velva-Ryan Nickel and The Golden Oak have been tossed around as possible titles – is a nod to the Nickel Trophy, which was awarded to the winner of University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University’s regular-season bout from 1938 to 2003.

The victor of Ryan and Velva’s annual season opener at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Herb Parker Stadium will take home the four-inch thick, 18-inch diameter hunk of wood, which arrived from Fargo on Thursday.

“That added hype to the game,” Borkhuis said. “You’ll see that the stadium will be packed tomorrow. The Velva-Bishop Ryan rivalry goes back so far.”

Last year, Ryan wideout Brody Bosch hauled in a 30-yard pass from Tanner Sanders for a touchdown with 2 minutes, 38 seconds remaining that sealed a 24-19 win – the Lions second straight victory in the rivalry.

Ryan senior lineman Mason Kramer said aside from the trophy, there’s even more pressure this year to win a third consecutive game against the Aggies.

“If we beat Velva it’d be 3-1 in my career at Bishop Ryan,” said Kramer, a first-team all-state selection in 2012. “Our coaches told us yesterday that’s tied for the best record a class has ever had. I don’t think we’ve ever beat Velva four times (in a row). There’s a lot of tradition and we respect their team, so that’d be nice.”

Velva, which returns speedy senior quarterback Drew Effertz, will utilize a double-wing offense filled with presnap motion. Aggies coach Larry Sandy said he plans to “experiment with things” during his squad’s first game, rather than fret about Ryan.

“Opening game has always been about getting out and getting after it, finding out where you’re at,” said Sandy, in his 24th year at Velva. “I guess I never saw it so much as about worrying about your opponent, you’ve got enough to take care of with your own personnel.”

Ryan plans to spread the field with its uptempo offense and hopes to stifle Effertz with a frequent blitz on defense.

“We’ve got to be careful because if we put him out of the pocket, he does a very good job scrambling,” Borkhuis said. “We have to make sure that we keep (him contained).”

Borkhuis said that being in such close proximity, his players know Velva’s well and vice versa, but it’s not a hostile rivalry. Sandy said it’s a cyclical rivalry.

“There were times that we’ve had some dominant teams and we knew we were going to go up against a Minot Ryan team that was coached well and got after it,” he said. “The shoe’s on the other foot a little bit here.”

Ryan’s a Class AA championship contender this year with nine returning starters on each side of the ball. Velva’s coming off a 4-5 season but has won eight of the past 13 Class A state titles.

“Since 1997 – the inception of this season opener between these two teams – I think to this day if you asked alumni what’s the most important regular season game, both sides would name this game,” Peterson said.

Ryan Holmgren covers high school sports and general assignment. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgrenMDN.